Drive Down the Debt – 2017 Press Coverage


Attention to license suspensions resulting from unpaid court costs and fines continued into 2017. Besides press attention to the class action lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center in July 2016, there was coverage in January of Governor McAuliffe’s calls for reform in this area. On March 13, the Ninth Circuit Court for the Western District of Virginia dismissed the lawsuit.  On April 10, LAJC filed a memorandum in support of a motion to alter the court’s initial judgment. This motion was denied on May 22, 2017.

In late September. our “Driven By Dollars” report analyzed driver’s license suspension laws for failure to pay court debt.  This state-by-state analysis has garnered media attention from the state of Washington to Washington D.C.

As with our Media – 2016 section, this compilation of 2017 media coverage is arranged in reverse chronological order.

October to December 2017

December 21   “Federal judge denies request to delay ruling on suspending drivers’ licenses” (Michigan Radio)

December 19   “SPLC reaches agreement with Mississippi to reinstate over 100,000 driver’s licenses suspended for non-payment of fines” (Southern Poverty Law Center)

December 6    “Road to ruin: Delaware license suspensions increase hardships” (Middletown Transcript)

November 27   “The poverty penalty: Should states suspend driver’s licenses for court scofflaws?” (WHYY-FM, Philadelphia)

November 21   “43 States Suspend Licenses for Unpaid Court Debt, But That Could Change” (The Marshall Project)

October 6        “Drivers license forfeits cost NC residents mobility and freedom” (The Charlotte Post)

October 4        “Easing the burden of paying court fees” (Johnson City Press)

October 2        “Michigan Leaders Move to Give Amnesty to 300,000 Drivers Who Lost Their Licenses Because They Were Broke” (Slate Magazine)

October 2        “Traffic Debt Keeps Thousands of Low-Income Drivers Off The Road In Tennessee” (Nashville Public Radio)

July to September 2017 

September 29   “Michigan is 1 of 5 harshest states for driver’s license suspensions over court fees, fines” (Detroit Free Press)

September 29   “Report Tracks Cash Incentive For States To Suspend Driving Licenses” (

September 28   “1.2M NC Drivers Lost Their License For Failure To Show Up To Court Or Pay Fees” (WUNC – NC Public Radio)

September 28   “Mich. House speaker pushes driver debt forgiveness plan” (The Detroit News)

September 27   “Millions Lose Driver’s Licenses Over Unpaid Court Debts” (The Crime Report of John Jay College)

September 26   “Millions of drivers lost their licenses for failing to pay court fees, study finds” (The Washington Post)

September 26   “Study: 100K Mich. drivers lose licenses for unpaid fees” (Detroit News)

September 26   “Study Highlights Tennessee’s Harsh Driver’s License Suspension Policies” (Nashville Scene)

September 26   “Report: Millions lose driver’s licenses due to unpaid court debt” (WTOP Radio)

September 26   “Report: Millions impacted by driver’s license suspensions due to court fees” (The Daily Progress)

September 26   “Michigan should rethink suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court fees, new report says” (Michigan Radio)

September 26   “State laws punish the poor by suspending their driver’s licenses” (MintPress)

September 26   “Report: Millions in U.S.Without Driver’s License Due to Unpaid Fees” (WVIR-TV)

September 26   “1 in 9 licensed NC drivers suspended, but not for bad driving” (

September 25   “Millions lose drivers licenses for failing to pay court fees” (, Everett. WA)

April to June 2017

June 30           “New Bill Aims to Reduce Number of Driver’s License Suspensions” (WVIR-TV)

June 29           “New law doesn’t put automatic driver’s license suspension issues to bed, critics say” (The Daily Progress)

June 14           “Plaintiffs file appeal to revive lawsuit against DMV program” (Charlottesville Newsplex)

May 29            “Federal judge declines to reconsider DMV license suspension suit” (The Daily Progress)

May 28            “Federal Judge Denies Request to Reconsider DMV Lawsuit” (WVIR-TV)

May 25            “McAuliffe signs bill on drivers license suspensions” (Daily Press)

May 8              “Michiganders Fight Policy for Driver’s License Suspensions”  (Courthouse News Service)

January to March 2017

March 17         “Opinion/Editorial: License lawsuit hits speed bump” (The Daily Progress)

March 16         “Judge dismisses lawsuit that claimed Va. suspends driver’s licenses of poor people in ‘unconstitutional scheme’” (The Washington Post)

March 14         “Case Challenging Driver’s License Suspensions in Va. Dismissed” (WVIR-TV)

March 14         “Judge dismisses driver’s license suspension lawsuit, citing jurisdiction” (The Daily Progress)

March 5          “Virginia lawmakers look to reduce driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court costs by making it easier to pay” (The Roanoke Times)

January 31      “Driven Out: License suspension crisis nearly three decades in the making” (

January 22      “Court Date Set in Federal Lawsuit Against DMV” (WVIR-TV)

January 17      “Without a driver’s license and deep in debt to the courts, poor Virginians hope for fine collection reforms” (The Daily Press)

January 11      “Governor joins call for driver’s license suspension reform” (C-Ville Weekly)

January 6       “Virginia Governor Proposes Ending License Suspensions for Unpaid Court Fines” (

January 4        “Driven out: Unregulated, courts set own terms for collecting fines and fees from Virginia drivers“ (

January 3       “McAuliffe Proposes Criminal Justice Reforms” (The Washington Post)

January 3       “McAuliffe: Don’t suspend drivers license if someone can’t pay court costs” (WTVR-TV)

January 3       “McAuliffe: Ease up on small thefts, no more license suspensions for unpaid fines” (The Daily Press)

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