Alabama House passes bill restricting suspension of driver’s licenses

By: - May 17, 2023 10:01 am
Cars and trucks move along the Cross Bronx Expressway, a notorious stretch of highway in New York City.

Cars and trucks move along the Cross Bronx Expressway, a notorious stretch of highway in New York City that is often choked with traffic and contributes to pollution and poor air quality on November 16, 2021 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday approved a bill that would limit judges’ abilities to suspend driver’s licenses for missing court dates or failing to pay fines.

SB 154, sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road and Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, passed 87-14 vote. It goes back to the Senate for consideration of House changes.

Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, speaks on the floor of the Alabama Senate on May 11, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

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 three payments.

Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, who handled the bill in the House, said that the judges still have the authority to suspend driver’s license if a defendant fails to appear in court after more than one occasion. Judges would also have the authority to suspend driver’s licenses after three missed payments of fines, fees, or court costs.

Criminal justice reform advocates have championed the bill in the current session. They say the current law is a 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.

Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, said that if a person didn’t pay a speeding ticket, it would seem to him that they would have to appear in court.

“Don’t you think that if I had decided I’m not going to pay, I’d make dang sure I knew when to show up to court?” Lee asked.

Wordsworth said they may not receive notice when to appear in court.

“Sometimes people live in mama’s address, sometimes they don’t, but this just gives [them] one more opportunity,” Wadsworth said.

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Alander Rocha
Alander Rocha

Alander Rocha is a journalist based in Montgomery, and he reports on government, policy and healthcare. He previously worked for KFF Health News and the Red & Black, Georgia's student newspaper. He is a Tulane and Georgia alumnus with a two-year stint in the U.S. Peace Corps.

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