Va. Passes Amendment to Restore Thousands of Suspended Driver's Licenses
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - More than 600,000 Virginians whose driver’s licenses are suspended are now eligible to get them back.
On Wednesday, April 3, the General Assembly passed a budget amendment that will help make that possible.
Currently, Virginians who cannot afford to pay their court fines and fees get their licenses suspended. This new legislation will change that practice.
On Wednesday, 70 out of 100 delegates and 30 out of 40 state senators backed Governor Northam's budget amendment that will allocate funding to cover the license reinstatement fees.
The people affected will still be required to pay their overdue fees, but they will no longer be prevented from driving to work.
In response to its passing, Governor Northam said, "This inequitable policy criminalizes poverty and a change was long overdue."
Delegate David Toscano agrees.
“People ought to keep their driver's licenses unless they're a danger on the roads, and to suspend people’s driver's licenses just because they haven't paid their costs or their fines makes it very difficult for people to keep their jobs, feed their families, and pay their obligations," Toscano said.
Currently, Charlottesville-based Legal Aid Justice Center is suing the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles over the practice of suspending licenses due to unpaid court fines and fees.
This new legislation essentially makes that suit moot.
The governor's office will now work with the DMV to decide how to best notify the hundreds of thousands of Virginians eligible to get their licenses back.
The new legislation takes effect July 1, but since it’s just part of a two-year budget, lawmakers will have to address it again in the future to make it a permanent practice.