Ivey signs law limiting courts’ ability to suspend drivers’ licenses over missed court dates, fines

Criminal justice reform advocates herald its passage

By: - June 3, 2023 9:01 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)

Gov. Kay Ivey Thursday signed a bill that limits when courts can revoke drivers’ licenses over missed court dates or failure to pay fines.

SB 154, sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, requires individuals are now allowed to miss one court appearance or two payments on their fines and fees before their licenses can be suspended. Courts can currently suspend licenses for any nonpayment.

The law will take effect on October 1.

Passage of the law was a significant victory for criminal justice reform groups, who made the bill a focal point in the session. They said allowing courts to suspend a person’s license made it difficult to work and hit people with low incomes hard. A similar bill passed the Senate in 2022 but fell short of passing at the last minute in the House.

“This has been a long road, but I am happy and proud to say we were able to get it over the finish line,” said Frederick Spight, policy director for Alabama Appleseed, a nonprofit criminal justice reform group that pushed for the bill. “Once it takes effect, this will provide relief to thousands of low-income people throughout the state. We had some amazing bill sponsors, as well as various other entities we worked with to get it passed. In an age of partisan politics this was a great display of many different strains of thought coming together to come up with a commonsense solution to help the citizens of our state.”

The final bill was less than what advocates originally sought. They had fought for legislation that would allow people to keep their licenses if they made most of their payments for the year if they are on a payment plan and miss one court appearance. It also would have made it easier to have their driver’s licenses reinstated if they comply and appear in court.

Those measures were changed after legislators introduced multiple amendments as the bill made its way through a few committees on its way to final passage.


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Ralph Chapoco
Ralph Chapoco

Ralph Chapoco covers state politics as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. His main responsibility is the criminal justice system in Alabama.