Many New Yorkers cant be on the road due to traffic debt, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that will put them back in the driver’s seat. Keep reading for more information.
Traffic violations can add up quickly, and some drivers have lost driving privileges due to a suspended license. Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter, D-Syracuse, one of the sponsors of the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act, says,
“The privilege of driving should not be attached to your income.”
The core principle of the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act is to recognize that driving is a privilege that isn’t always accessible to those with traffic debt or other limitations. Assemblywoman Hunter and State Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Buffalo, believe this law will help New Yorkers get back on the road to go to work, school, and home without having to worry about a suspended license.
Before the act, non-payment for traffic-related fines and fees resulted in an automatic license suspension. Driving with a suspended license is a misdemeanor in New York, and violators pay up to $500 for each violation. Additional violations could also be elevated to a felony offense leading to jail time.
Why the Act Matters
This system of restriction and punishment has disproportionately affected communities of color. The fact that people of color are more likely to be pulled over by law enforcement has led to a startling amount of suspensions for drivers in these communities.
A report by the Racial Justice Project at New York Law School found that people in communities of color are
“disproportionately stopped, ticketed, ticketed with multiple tickets, arrested, charged, and convicted for traffic violations and driving with suspended licenses.”
The pattern of discrimination has prevented people in these communities from driving to school, work, and their court hearing for a traffic violation. In doing so, drivers are vulnerable to other infractions for missing court and are less likely to afford to pay the fines.
- Other studies have shown that between January 2016 and April 2018, over 1.7 million license suspensions were issued in relation to traffic debt.
- Additionally, over two-thirds of all license suspensions in the state of New York are just for traffic debt.
- More than 75% of people with a suspended license continue driving, risking the possibility of further fines or suspensions.
- Rochester is one of the hardest-hit communities by traffic debt, with over 10,000 debt-related suspensions issued in the 14611, and 14621 neighborhoods alone.
- The state suspension rate is nine times higher in the poorest neighborhoods than the top 10 wealthiest in New York.
How Will the Act Improve Things?
The new law will allow drivers with traffic debt to pay back their fines with monthly installments. Drivers can pay $10 each month or 2% of their net monthly income, whichever is greater. Judges will also have more power to waive surcharges and fees depending on the case.
Overall, drivers will be able to pay back their traffic debts over time in more manageable increments instead of a lump sum. Supporters of the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act are hopeful that these changes will positively affect communities of color and give many drivers the green light to go to work and school.
Martin A. Kron & Associates, P.C. has over 30 years of experience helping drivers with their traffic cases. For more information regarding traffic debt, violations, suspensions, and more contact our New York traffic lawyer today.