Governor’s Amendment on License Suspension

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Amy Woolard, Attorney & Policy Coordinator, 434-284-1134, amy@justice4all.org
Tim Wallace, Dir. of Development, 434-529-1853, twallace@justice4all.org

GOV. NORTHAM ANNOUNCES BUDGET AMENDMENT TO GIVE FULL GENERAL ASSEMBLY CHANCE TO VOTE ON DRIVER’S LICENSE SUSPENSION REPEAL

Charlottesville, Va., March 25, 2019 — Governor Northam announced today at a press conference that he will submit a budget amendment for consideration during the Reconvened Session next month that will give the Virginia General Assembly the opportunity to end the practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of those who fail to pay court fees and fines.

The current law that mandates the automatic suspension of licenses for unpaid court debt hurts people like Brianna Morgan, one of the named plaintiffs in a pending class action lawsuit filed by Legal Aid Justice Center. “Without my license, my own health suffered; rather than go to my specialists, I’d have to call an ambulance to go to the emergency room,” Brianna explained at the press conference. “And without my license, I couldn’t take my kids places, to help them learn and grow and do stuff that all kids should be able to experience.”

A bill that would have accomplished the change the Governor is seeking was introduced this year by Senator Bill Stanley.  “The Commonwealth can no longer justify what has essentially become a ‘debtors’ prison’ under our watch in the General Assembly,” Senator Stanley wrote in statement provided to the press. “That’s why I introduced SB1013 this legislative session to repeal the current law that mandates these unjust suspensions merely because a person cannot afford to pay the fines and costs.  While my bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, It was never heard by the full House of Delegates, even though it had overwhelming bipartisan support both inside and outside of the legislature.”

“We’ve worked for years with both Republicans and Democrats to get this common sense reform passed,” said Legal Aid Justice Center Executive Director Angela Ciolfi.  “We’re hopeful that the General Assembly will seize this critical opportunity to end this unconstitutional practice, which reaches deep into the daily lives of nearly one million Virginians, standing in the way of not only their attempts to pay their debts, but also their need to care for their families and maintain their jobs.”

Statement from Senator Stanley (PDF)

Remarks from Brianna Morgan, Petersburg Virginia (PDF)

Remarks from LAJC Executive Director Angela Ciolfi (PDF)

Driver’s License Suspension Fact Sheet (PDF)

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out the inequities that keep people in poverty. LAJC’s four programs: Civil Rights and Racial Justice, Economic Justice, Immigrant Advocacy, and JustChildren focus on the most pressing problems facing low income Virginians.

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