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Bill Would Ease Process For Paying Traffic Fines

Legislation proposed this spring in the state Assembly would make it easier for people to pay traffic fines.

A bill (A.7463A) by Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter, D-Syracuse, would limit the reasons to suspend someone’s driver’s license, provide additional notification when a person is required to be in traffic court and require income based payment plans to be available for fines, fees and mandatory surcharges incurred as a result of vehicle and traffic law violations. The bill was sent to the Assembly’s Transportation Committee; no votes were scheduled before the end of the legislative session.

“License suspension has significant adverse consequences for the individual, especially in areas where public transportation options are sparse,” Hunter wrote in her legislative justification. “Without a license, a person cannot drive to work, school, or even court. These consequences compound and amplify the impact of the suspension, making it less likely that the person can repay the initial debt and more likely that the person will incur additional censure and penalties from the court. If the person continues to drive with a suspended license, as many people are compelled to do, he or she risks criminal charges, additional fines, and possible prison time.”

Hunter proposes repealing the section of the vehicle and traffic law that allows for the suspension of a driver’s license for failing to pay a fine for a traffic violation conviction. She also proposes requiring the court or hearing officer to offer the person a payment plan, with required monthly payments not to be more than 2% of the person’s net monthly income or $10, whichever is greater.

The court would also be able to reduce or waive the amount of any fine, fee or mandatory surcharge, requires those assessed a fine be provided with forms that make them aware of a payment plan and repeal the provision of state law requiring a $70 suspension fee be paid before a court can reinstate a driver’s license that has been suspended for failure to appear in court.

“The arguable benefits of suspension for nonpayment do not justify the costs to New York communities. States across the country are reaching similar conclusions, and doing away with the practice. Mississippi, Idaho, California, the District of Columbia, and Virginia have all stopped suspending licenses for nonpayment, and the legislatures in Montana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, and Florida are all considering legislation that would do the same,” Hunter wrote. “At the same time, the practice is facing constitutional challenges in several other states, including Alabama, Oregon, Montana, and Michigan — and so far, those challenges have been successful.”

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