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New Law Spares Driver Licenses, Allows Payment Plan for Traffic Tickets

Patti Singer

New York is among more than a dozen states that have ended license suspensions based on the ability to pay a fine. File photo

Drivers in New York won’t lose their license just because they can’t pay a traffic fine, according to a state law that took full effect June 29.

The law also allows for drivers who lost their license because they didn’t show up for a traffic hearing to enter into a payment plan in order to get their license restored.

The Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act is expected to end the practice of suspensions when the driver can’t afford the fine.

Read:“Why don’t they just pay”

The law was passed last year and was sponsored by Sen. Tim Kennedy of Buffalo and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter of Syracuse. New York is among 20 states that in the past five years have passed laws to end suspensions based on ability to pay a fine, according to the Fines and Fees Justice Center.

According to the report Driving While Black and Latinx: Stops, Fines, Fees, and Unjust Debts, people of color in New York are disproportionately stopped, ticketed, arrested, charged and convicted for traffic violations and for driving on a suspended license.

A traffic ticket can have a domino effect for someone who can’t afford the fine. A person driving on a suspended license is subject to more fines and potentially jail, Fines and Fees Justice Center wrote in a news release. The advocacy organization said that between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued approximately 1.7 million suspensions for non-payment of fine and failure to appear at traffic hearings.

Details of traffic debt suspensions are at Scroll to “suspension facts.”

“This new law does a lot to advance economic and racial inequality in New York,” Katie Adamides, New York state director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center, said in the news release. “Ending debt-based driving restrictions is a meaningful first step toward ending New York’s predatory fines and fees that encourage policing-for-profit and criminalize poverty.”

The legislation allows for payment plans at 2% of the person’s monthly income or $25 per month, whichever is greater.

The new law will help New Yorkers regain their licenses and their ability to legally drive to work and use a car for other necessities. People who didn’t respond to their traffic ticket because they couldn’t pay the fine can enter into a payment plan that will include the reinstatement fee.

Individuals also will be issued to notifications prior to license suspension.

The new law does not end license suspensions for failure to appear. Those individuals have to go to the traffic court in the jurisdiction in which they are instructed to appear or enter into an installment plan.

The Monroe County Public Defender’s Office has a fact sheet on the new law. Link to English version: Link to the Spanish version: