Detroit Lawsuit Challenges Traffic Ticket Fines for the Poor

Detroit Women Bring Lawsuit to Challenge
Michigan Traffic Ticket Fines for the Poor

Like many people in Detroit, two woman received traffic tickets that they simply could not afford to pay. Kitia Harris and Adrian Fowler – both single mothers – received tickets for minor violations that they could not pay immediately. And, as is always the case, fines and penalties were added on. This made it even more impossible to pay the traffic tickets – and eventually both women lost their license.

25-year-old Kitia has a serious medical condition – so now she must rely on friends and family to take her to doctor’s appointments. And when no one can drive her, she is forced to cancel her treatment appointments.

Under Michigan’s current system, the Secretary of State automatically, indefinitely suspends a person’s licenses if they owe court-ordered fines and other fees, even if though they cannot afford to pay those fees. And as the late fees and driver responsibility fees keep piling on, it just becomes more and more impossible for the person to pay everything that is required in order to get their license back.

Lawsuit Claims Tickets Unfair to Poor

This vicious cycle of heaped-on traffic tickets fees, fines and penalties could happen to anyone. Perhaps it has even happened to you. In fact, an estimated 100,000 people in Michigan have their driver’s licenses suspended every year by because they didn’t, or couldn’t, pay their traffic tickets for minor traffic violations.

However, there may be some good news in store. Recently, attorneys for a national civil-rights organization called “Equal Justice Under Law” (EJUL) – along with Detroit’s Sugar Law Center attorneys – filed a class action lawsuit against Michigan’s Secretary of State, challenging these fees. That lawsuit accuses the State of Michigan of running a “wealth-based … scheme that traps some of the state’s poorest residents in a cycle of poverty.”

According to the lawsuit, Michigan unfairly keeps its poorest residents in a cycle of poverty by suspending their driver’s licenses when they can’t afford to pay court debts.  Without their license, poorer people cannot get or keep jobs, take care of their children, or even obtain necessary medical treatment.

EJUL is arguing that this in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment – which punishes people for no other reason than they are too poor to pay the excessive traffic ticket fines, fees & penalties.

Last year, the Department of Justice also wrote a letter addressed to all courts across the country expressing concern about how poor people are affected by fees, fines and bond practices that sometimes cause people to stay in jail simply because they lack money.

Detroit Traffic Ticket Attorneys

It is too early for our Detroit traffic ticket attorneys to tell whether or not this lawsuit will eventually help reduce the unfair burden of traffic ticket fines on those who cannot afford them in Detroit and across Michigan. Our experienced Detroit traffic ticket attorneys are hopeful that this will be a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, if your license has been suspended for unpaid or outstanding Detroit traffic ticket fines, fees or penalties, call our attorneys for a free consultation today. Our attorneys will be happy to explain your rights and try to help you resolve your Detroit traffic tickets in the most affordable way possible.