Tennessee judge orders the reinstatement of driver licenses suspended for non-payment of tickets and court costs

Tennessee judge orders the reinstatement of driver licenses suspended for non-payment of tickets and court costs

Reinstatement of Driver Licenses

A recent statewide class action lawsuit that affects nearly 300,000 Tennessee residents may soon change how many people you see on the roadways. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger recently issued an order to stop the suspension of driver’s licenses of people for nonpayment of traffic tickets, court costs and other fees until it can be determined that the individual has the ability to pay. 

Low-Income Residents Plagued with Fines and Court Debts

For some low-income Tennessee residents, a traffic ticket can spiral into something that affects their entire life and livelihood. If someone wasn’t able to show up for court because they couldn’t get time off from work, a $75 traffic ticket could turn into a $200 judgement. While it might not seem like a large sum of money for some, this type of situation can cause a sudden disruption to a delicate financial balance for people that are living paycheck-to-paycheck. They may need to decide whether to pay their rent or pay the judgement. Usually, they go ahead and pay for their basic life needs such as food and shelter. However, this puts them in a precarious situation where they could lose their license. People who have had their drivers licenses suspended for non-payment of tickets or court costs suddenly have limited transportation options which can affect their ability to get to their existing job, search for better career prospects, or visit family.

The Lawsuit

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger gave the order to stop suspending licenses for nonpayment of traffic fines and court costs, and instructed the state to allow drivers who had previously had their licenses suspended for this reason the opportunity to get their license back without fees.

After the order was given, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security issued a statement and information alert on their website:

“The Department of Safety and Homeland Security has received the order. It will stop suspensions of licenses, as the Court requires, and it will promptly review the balance of the order to determine the appropriate next steps. Please be patient as we work through this process.”

Although many people are in favor of the ruling, there has been some push-back. Tennessee’s attorney general has submitted an appeal to the recent ruling. During this time, the state will not suspend licenses for failure to pay, however, licenses that were previously suspended will not be reinstated until the judge can hear the state’s appeal.

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