The Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act went into effect on Tuesday, ending the practice of suspending a person’s license for unpaid traffic fines and fees.
Katie Adamides, the New York state director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, says it is safe to assume this will impact hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
“What was typical for people to experience under the way the law was before, if they couldn't afford to pay in full, upfront, their license would be suspended,” Adamides said. “And then if they continued to drive, that could be considered a crime. If they did that enough times, it could become a felony. So this became a fast track for criminalizing poverty.”
Now starting on June 29, the Department of Motor Vehicles will automatically be lifting all suspensions of driver’s licenses, privileges to operate, and registrations for unpaid traffic fines and fees.
If a driver is unable to pay traffic fines, fees and mandatory surcharges, they will be allowed to enter into a payment plan.
This payment plan will be $25 a month, or 2% of a person’s net monthly income, whichever is higher.
After June 29, the DMV will send written notice to all those with driver’s license suspensions for unpaid traffic fines to inform them of their right to enter into payment plans.
Drivers can still get their licenses suspended for other reasons. For example, if they fail to answer a traffic summons, receive 11 points on their driver’s license within 18 months, or driving while under the influence.
“Now you know you can go to court, it wouldn't have a hearing on your traffic ticket,” Adamides said. “Because you don't have to have the money to be able to get through that process. And we know that just because you don't have the money, doesn't mean you'll lose your ability to drive. So it's okay, all you have to do is apply for a payment plan and you'll be on track to exiting the system, whether you have resources or not.”
Additionally, this bill will require the DMV to give more notice before suspending a person’s driver’s license for unanswered traffic summons or missed traffic hearings.
For those that have had their license suspended for failing to appear in court, they can now go to the DMV or traffic court and inform them that they are there to appear for the purpose of clearing the driver’s license suspension for “failure to answer or appear.”
The DMV must accept and certify this person’s appearance regardless if they can pay the $70 reinstatement fee.
If you are unsure if your license has been suspended, you can contact the DMV by phone at (800) 698-2931 or through MyDMV online.