(Harrisburg, Pa.) — Senator Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. (D-Allegheny) announced plans to introduce legislation that would reform the process of license suspension for certain convictions.
The legislation would provide alternative mechanisms for individuals to retain their driver’s license in cases where they are financially unable to pay fines and fees imposed for routine traffic violations. The alternative arrangements will include community service.
“Many drivers, especially young and low-income drivers, are overwhelmingly burdened by this provision,” they wrote jointly in a cosponsorship memorandum to Senate colleagues. “It creates major barriers to pursuing employment and educational opportunities, as well as burdens their ability to access healthcare and other necessary services, essentially creating a debtor’s prison.”
According to The Buhl Foundation’s analysis Driver’s License Suspensions and the Impact on Young People in Pennsylvania, among young drivers ages 16-24 years old, failure to pay fines and fees and failure to appear are the most common reason for license suspensions. In the period between 2014 and 2017, 172,006 young people in Pennsylvania received driver’s license suspensions. Of these, 124,650 suspensions given were of an indefinite length. Under Section 1533 of Title 75, license suspension for failure to pay a fine is indefinite; until fines associated with the underlying citation are paid, a person has no recourse for reinstating their driving privileges.
As highlighted in the Buhl report, license suspension exacerbates “the vicious cycle of needing a license to get to a job but needing a job to pay the costs associated with getting a license or paying the fines resulting from driving without a license.”
Senators Stefano and Costa are seeking cosponsors for the legislation before its formal introduction.
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