HB 376: Restrictions on Suspension of Driver Licenses
This bill was held in rules and not heard.
Every year, the state of Utah suspends the driver licenses of over 30,000 people for failing to pay for tickets or failing to appear in court for their driving-related offenses. Some of these offenses are as small as a seat belt violation or faulty light while some are larger offenses like speeding. When an individual doesn’t pay for a fine attached to their offense, should the state take away their ability to legally drive?
Individuals who aren’t paying their fines could be putting it off because they legitimately don’t have the ability to pay for them. Taking away their driver license for ignoring a fine isn’t going to help the individual’s circumstances or ability to pay. Reliable transportation is necessary to hold down a job and therefore make money. If the state takes away legal driving ability, they’re simultaneously undermining their ability to be paid.
Representative Cory Maloy is sponsoring House Bill 376 to address this major problem affecting the lives of thousands of Utahns. Under his bill, the state wouldn’t be able to suspend the driver’s licenses of those who haven’t paid their fines—so long as the unpaid amount is less than $1,000. This would ensure that the courts can still use this tool for repeat offenders or more serious crimes. Additionally, if an individual fails to appear in court for the first time for a misdemeanor or infraction, their license wouldn’t be suspended with this bill. If a court issues a bench warrant for a failure to appear or pay, the bill would still ensure that the person’s driver license isn’t suspended, pursuant to the regulations listed above (if the debt is under $1,000 and/or first-time failure to appear in court).
Other states are also moving away from penalizing people for inability to pay court debt. While a penalty is appropriate for failure to pay, it should not be so severe as to limit a person’s ability to maintain employment. The court has other tools they can use, such as late fees, when someone doesn’t pay their debt.
HB 376 bill also corrects a loophole from last years driver license bill by stopping the courts from banning driver licenses for simple possession of drugs or alcohol if the operator of the vehicle is is sober while driving. If the operator is under the influence, their license will still be suspended.