Virginia lawmakers voted to eliminate the suspension of driver’s licenses for motorists with unpaid court fines and costs.

The Senate voted Wednesday evening in favor of Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed budget amendment to reinstate driving licenses for more than 627,000 Virginians who currently have suspended licenses. The House approved the measure earlier in the day.

Current Virginia law mandates the automatic suspension of licenses for unpaid court debt.

Virginia collects about $10 million a year from people who pay to reinstate their licenses after they’ve been suspended for unpaid fines and costs.

The Legal Aid Justice Center of Virginia has sued over the practice, arguing that it unfairly punishes poor people. Supporters of the law say ending the license suspensions would reward criminals.

Northam argues if you lose your ability to drive to work, you may have even more trouble paying off court fees.

He worked with interfaith activist group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) to find a solution, however it could be debated again next year as the budget expires.

On Wednesday night, Virginia’s General Assembly agreed to a budget amendment which ended the state’s practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of people with unpaid court fees. Many argue that practice made it hard for people to repay their debts. However, as News4’s Drew Wilder reports, this “vicious cycle” might be relitigated next year. (Published Thursday, April 4, 2019)

If you your license suspended due to unpaid court fees, you can reach out to VOICE to learn more about getting reinstated once the change goes into effect in July.

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