Alabama lawmakers pass bill to help drivers avoid license suspensions
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama lawmakers have approved a bill to help people avoid having their driver’s licenses suspended.
The bill, which has yet to be signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, gives people the chance to miss a court date or fee payment instead of getting their license suspended right away. Under current law, a court can revoke your license if you miss a court date or fail to pay a fine or fee.
Alabama Appleseed reported in 2021 that nearly 170,000 Alabamians had their driver’s licenses suspended for debt-based reasons. Frederick Spight with Alabama Appleseed said this could be due to an inability to pay fines, fees or tickets, or if they miss court.
Not having a license impacts more than the driver. Spight noted that it can impact the workforce shortage. Sen. Merika Coleman, R-Jefferson County, gave an example from an advocate who had an opportunity to get a job at Mercedes.
“But she did not have the driver’s license or the ID to even get through the gate to have the interview,” Coleman said.
That’s what inspired Alabama Appleseed to present Coleman with Senate Bill 154 before she became a senator.
“I was contacted several years ago by Alabama Appleseed and some advocate groups when I served in the Alabama House of Representatives,” said Coleman.
The bill passed and, if signed by Ivey, it will allow someone to miss one pos-adjudication court hearing in traffic cases without their driver’s license being suspended.
“I can tell you the amount of clients I’ve had who have missed court, particularly for a variety of reasons,” said Spight.
The bill allows people to miss a date no matter the reason. It also gives someone the opportunity to miss three payments on a ticket.
“I think more people are going to actually be able to satisfy their debts to the court because now there’s a pathway to take care what they need to take care of while retaining their ability to drive and go to work and earn money to actually pay off their tickets,” said Spight.
Coleman said this will help all Alabamians but especially lower-income families who sometimes have a more difficult time paying fees.
“You need a driver’s license for everything, not just to drive. You need a driver’s license for employment. You need a driver’s license for housing and other things. But for those main things, housing, employment and transportation, those hit low-income communities harder than anybody else,” said Coleman.
Ivey’s office says they are waiting for the bill to be transmitted and that they look forward to reviewing it. If Ivey signs the bill, the law will go into effect this October.
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