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Federal lawsuit challenges practice of jailing drivers

In and around New York City, there has been a crackdown on various traffic violations over the past couple of years. The city itself led the way with the Vision Zero project and other counties and areas have also tightened their oversight on other issues and penalties. This includes multiple agencies including the Department of Motor Vehicles as well as law enforcement. All in all, New York traffic law has become a complicated thing.

Each county can have different ways of handling similar situations. While some basic traffic infractions are managed by the DMV in New York City, neighboring areas such as Suffolk County have moved the responsibility to separate agencies. One of the big repercussions of this change, at least in Suffolk County, is that while the DMV has no authority to order drivers to spend time in jail, the Suffolk Traffic and Parking Violations Agency does. The agency can also impose high fines.

In 2015 alone so far, 16 people have received jail sentences for violations like not having a valid driver’s license. Since the move away from the DMV took place in the spring of 2013, almost 40 people have been jailed for these minor offenses. This spring, a federal lawsuit was filed against the practice claiming that it showed discrimination toward certain minorities who may be unable to get licenses. The suit also claimed a lack of constitutionality.

Whether or not the practice of jailing these drivers will continue or not is yet to be seen. What is known is that seeking help from a lawyer in such a situation might be helpful for a driver.

Source: Newsday, “Traffic violators in Suffolk face jail time,” David M. Schwartz, July 5, 2015

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