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Unpaid Traffic Tickets No Longer Cause Suspended License

Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2021 by Andrew Charles Huff

Thousands of Washington drivers will now see their licenses reinstated under a court-ordered moratorium on suspensions for unpaid traffic tickets.

Previously, people with unpaid traffic tickets would see their driver’s licenses automatically revoked under state law. These mandatory license suspensions have drawn controversy among those about the economic impact on low-income drivers, especially drivers of color.

The ACLU of Washington sued the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) on behalf of four Washington drivers who saw their licenses suspended for failure to pay. The lawsuit argued the agency’s license suspensions violated the plaintiffs’ right to due process by not considering their ability to pay. In response, a Thurston County Judge recently ordered the department to rescind all prior license suspensions for failure to pay a ticket, failure to appear in court or failure to comply with the terms of a traffic ticket. The order does not apply to habitual offenders or traffic cases going. The ACLU of Washington estimated that as many as 100,000 Washington drivers could see their driver’s licenses reinstated under the order.

Under a bill signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this session, ESSB 5226, license suspensions will continue. The bill gives judges the right to offer payment plans instead of license suspensions.