Did you know that the State of Florida suspended 10% of driver’s licenses in 2018? Millions of drivers in the Sunshine State have had their licenses suspended not because of any traffic-related issue, but because they could not afford to pay court fees or appear in court. The practice hurts people who have not demonstrated they’re a threat to others on the road, yet it funds necessary government positions. The significant number of people who are against the practice are pushing for legislation to end it and reduce the number of licenses that are suspended for matters unrelated to driving.
Florida’s License Suspension Practices Hurts Those Who Can’t Afford Court Fees
At the age of 21, South Florida resident Marq Mitchell lost his driver’s license over the failure to pay court fines associated with two criminal convictions from his past. One of his convictions was a felony he incurred while a youth in foster care and the other was for a felony he committed as an adult. When it became clear that he could not keep up with his payments, the state suspended his driver’s license, which he needed to get to and from two jobs he had at the time.
The longer Mitchell went without paying back his fine, the larger it grew. The State of Florida allows for court fines to go to collections if they go longer than 90 days without being paid. At that point, collection agencies are free to charge additional fees, including fees for late payments. Anyone who manages to pay back the court fines must pay another $60 to reinstate their driver’s license.
Mitchell tried to make small payments but ultimately failed to pay back enough to get his license reinstated. Then, he became the president of Chainless Change, a nonprofit that helps people navigate their lives after being released from incarceration.
What Actions Could Lead to a License Suspension in Florida?
Several non-driving related actions or inactions could lead to a suspended license. Some of the most common reasons drivers have their privileges revoked in Florida include:
- Failing to pay fines
- Failing to appear in court
- Accumulating too many license points
- Refusing a breath test for DUI
- Driving without car insurance
- Driving without a license
- Driving with a suspended license
If you’re accused of any of the above offenses, you could face a license suspension even if you’ve never been involved in an accident.
What’s wrong with suspending licenses over court fees?
Sadly, targeting the licenses of people who can’t pay fines in Florida often hits the most vulnerable members of society the hardest. Many people who have lost their licenses for failure to pay court fines simply cannot afford the fines. They need their cars to get to work to pay off the fines, but without a license, they become trapped in a cycle of debt.
Many people against the practice of suspending licenses over financial matters realize that it hurts more people than it helps. As such, there have been several attempts to change the system. Most recently, two bills have been introduced by the state House of Representatives and state Senate that would lead Florida to join six other states in eliminating driver license suspension penalties.
SB 1328 and HB 903 Aim to Stop License Suspensions for Being Broke
Between them, SB 1328 and HB 903 would allow drivers to set up payment plans in all 67 counties that would enable them to repay their debts. They’d have the same options for repayment in all counties, which would bring much-needed consistency to the system. Clerks would be required to set up monthly payments for 2% of the drivers’ monthly income, or $10 a month — whichever is greater. These proposals would also eliminate monthly payment plan fees and allow clerks to charge a one-time administrative fee instead. Clerks would not be able to charge those who need public defenders more than $5.
Additionally, anyone whose license was suspended before July 1, 2020, just because they couldn’t pay court costs, could have their licenses reinstated upon the payment of a reinstatement fee and would not need to pay back all of what they owe.
What Can You Do Right Now to Regain Your Driving Privileges?
Was your Florida driver’s license recently suspended for any reason? You might be able to have it reinstated or apply for a hardship license with the assistance of an attorney who helps people resolve driver’s license issues in Florida. Brian P. Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel is a criminal defense attorney in the West Palm Beach area who routinely fights license suspensions. Regardless of your license issue, you should seek sound legal counsel from a qualified attorney like Brian, who has practiced for over 30 years.
Call 561-622-5575 for a free consultation or complete a contact form.