Livonia Traffic Tickets Lawyers Discuss Changes
to Michigan Driver’s License Suspension Law
Vehicle codes in thirty-nine states provide that licenses of anyone who fails to pay any fines or fees (including minor traffic tickets) will be suspended whether or not they are financially capable of paying them. Michigan is currently one of those thirty-nine states. However, that could change in the near future.
Lawyers File Class Action Lawsuit Against State of Michigan
A lawsuit was initially brought in Michigan on behalf of plaintiffs Adrian Fowler and Kitia Harris, both single mothers living in the Detroit area. Both Fowler and Harris received minor traffic violations, and because they were financially incapable of paying the citations, their licenses were suspended. Ms. Fowler had to turn down higher-paying jobs in Detroit’s suburbs because public transportation was unavailable. Ms. Harris has a chronic medical condition, and on several occasions was either late or missed medical appointments entirely because she was no longer able to drive once her license was suspended. In the course of its investigation, lawyers with Equal Justice Under Law discovered approximately 100,000 additional individuals who were not able to pay traffic tickets due to financial hardship, and whose licenses had also been suspended. The lawsuit was then filed as a class action against the State of Michigan (Fowler v. Johnson). Through the class action suit, Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit group, seeks to end the policy of suspending driver’s licenses to affected Michigan drivers.
Equal Justice Under Law’s position is that Michigan’s current law violates the Equal Protection and Due Process rights as well as the right to intrastate travel (a right that is recognized in the Sixth Circuit which encompasses Michigan, among other states). According to the lawsuit, attempting to force payment by taking away a party’s ability to drive, and thereby hindering their ability to work, makes no rational sense. The current law seems to unfairly single out the poor, while at the same time, it impedes their ability to find employment, travel to their jobs and earn money that would enable them to pay their court-ordered fines. According to Equal Justice Under Law, this is a violation of substantive due process rights, and the automatic suspension, which deprives impoverished drivers of their driver’s licenses without an ability-to-pay hearing, is a violation of their procedural due process rights.
Judge says Michigan can’t Suspend Driver’s License for Financial Inability to Pay Traffic Tickets and Fines
On December 14, 2017, Judge Linda V. Parker of the Eastern District of Michigan granted a motion for preliminary injunction, finding that the procedural due process claim was likely valid. Michigan’s Secretary of State was ordered to stop suspending driver’s licenses of people who were not able to pay court debts and tickets due to financial inability. The injunction is currently stayed pending appeal in the Sixth Circuit. Equal Justice Under Law issued a press release stating that this is the first time a preliminary injunction has been issued by a federal judge blocking suspension of driver’s licenses based upon economic ability to pay. In her ruling, Judge Parker stated that suspension of an individual’s driver’s license seemed “an unwise response” because the suspension would make it harder to find or keep a job that could enable the individual to repay his or her debts.
Equal Justice Under Law called this a well-reasoned and thorough opinion, and looks forward to the day when the preliminary injunction becomes permanent.
Livonia Area Traffic Ticket Lawyers
Our Livonia area traffic ticket lawyers will continue to monitor changes to Michigan Driver’s License Suspension Law being affected by this case.
In the meantime, if your driver’s license has been suspended, contact our Livonia area traffic ticket lawyers.
We will offer you a free consultation to discuss your options for driver’s license restoration, so you can get back on the road, and back to work, and back to your daily activities.