43 States Suspend Licenses for Unpaid Court Debt including Alabama

So true:

“When you are faced with the uncertainty of potentially being pulled over and being incarcerated versus the certainty of losing your job and not being able to provide for your family, most people would choose to drive, and that’s what most people choose,” says Angela Ciolfi, a lawyer representing Taylor and the other plaintiffs in the Virginia suit. “We don’t live in a society where most people can rely on public transportation and work and shop and meet their basic needs without driving.”

Alabama is one of 43 states, plus the District of Columbia, that suspends driver’s licenses for people with unpaid court debt, according a recent report by the Legal Aid Justice Center, a Virginia-based organization that filed a lawsuit there challenging the practice.

The Alabama Rules of Criminal Rules state:
If the court orders a defendant to pay a fine and/or restitution imposed as a result of a traffic infraction, the court may suspend the defendant’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this state upon a failure of the defendant to comply with the order of the court. If the defendant’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been suspended for failure to comply with such court order, the privilege may remain suspended until the total amount of the fine and/or restitution imposed is paid.
I haven’t seen many times that a court proactively actually suspends the license for failure to pay. However, a court can do this regardless of ability to pay. The operative word in the rule is “may.” Its discretionary. A court needs to affirmatively pursue this option.
On the other hand, Alabama will suspend your license of failing to appear for a hearing. And this is automatic; a judge does not need to specifically act. As soon as the clerk transmits the notice of the FTA to Department of Public Safety, the license is suspended.

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