Alabama Senate committee approves bill restricting courts’ ability to revoke driver’s licenses
The bill allows people to keep diriver’s license if the fail to appear in court or fail to pay a fine or fee
The dome of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, as seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)
The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved a bill allowing people to retain their driver’s licenses even after missing a court date or failing to pay their fines.
SB 154, sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road and Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, passed the committee on a 13-0 vote. It heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The bill allows people to retain their driver’s licenses even if they miss a court appearance or fail to make a few payments.
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“It simply allows or mandates that, in order for a license to be suspended, for a failure to miss a post adjudication review date, that (person) would have to miss two or more hearings,” Barfoot said.
Current law allows a court to revoke a person’s license after missing an initial court date or failing to show up to court for a review post adjudication. A person may also have a driver’s license revoked if they fail to pay a fine or fee even once.
The bill would forbid the suspension of a driver’s license unless a person missed two court appearances or six payments.
“There are those who say, ‘well, this is an effort to make sure that court costs or fines are not paid,’” Barfoot said. “That is not the case. All court costs and fines ordered by the court will be paid, have to be paid, and this bill does nothing with that.”
A judge could revoke a license if a person misses an initial court appearance or violates bond.
This bill offers some grace period for that.
Criminal justice reform advocates have championed the bill in the current session. They argue it places a high burden on lower-income individuals who need access to transportation to work and meet basic needs. Low-income people are often not able to work remotely and must be onsite to do their jobs.
“This is a great step towards providing relief to thousands of Alabamians, and many more low-income people in the future,” said Frederick Spight, policy director with Alabama Appleseed. “We have great bill sponsors who have really championed this common sense, bipartisan legislation that has broad support throughout our state. I’m proud to say that the support for this has come not only from everyday, working people, but also those in the business community, government and other sectors that make our state run.”
The bill applies to people after their cases have been adjudicated. Barfoot said the bill does not take discretion from judges. Courts may still issue warrants for those who miss scheduled appearances or payments.
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