Dear Washington State Legislators:
The following signatories ask that you support SB 5226 which would end debt-based driver’s license suspensions for moving violations in Washington state.
A driver can receive a moving violation for something as simple as failing to signal while making a turn. But for people who cannot afford to pay the ticket, this minor infraction (which is not a crime) can set off a chain of events that ends with a huge amount of debt, a criminal charge for Driving While License Suspended in the third degree (DWLS3), and possibly jail time.
Here is how it happens: A person without the ability to pay fines gets a moving violation while driving. They do not pay the fine or respond to the violation within the mandated timeframe, which is sometimes as brief as 15 days. The state then suspends their license a few weeks later. However, the person must drive to drop their kids off at school or go to a doctor’s appointment, so they drive anyway and get charged with DWLS3 — one of the most commonly charged crimes in Washington. DWLS3 laws disproportionately impact people of color and young adults.
SB 5226 would stop the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees for civil moving violations, ensuring that public safety is the focus of our state’s scarce criminal justice resources — not punishing people who are “driving while poor.” It also ensures that drivers keep their insurance, can get to work, and provide transportation for their families. Reforming these laws will increase fairness and cost-effectiveness without sacrificing public safety.
This legislation will hold people accountable and dangerous drivers will still have their licenses suspended. Drivers who accumulate multiple moving violations will still have to pay fines and their licenses will be suspended. The biggest threats to roadway safety are impaired driving, speeding, and distracted driving. Drivers who present risks to others will continue to face serious consequences, such as criminal charges for reckless driving or DUI.
The pandemic and economic recession make this legislation more important than ever. For low-wage workers and people living in poverty, losing a driver’s license could mean losing a job — an especially cruel blow during this difficult economic time. In rural areas, residents rely on cars to get to work. As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, cars provide a socially distant option even in places with widely available public transportation. This legislation would mean fewer barriers to getting and keeping a job, benefitting families and society.
2021 is the time to pass this legislation. Thanks to a growing national movement, a number of states have reformed their laws to suspending driver’s licenses for people who don’t have the ability to pay traffic fines, including California, Hawaii, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Virginia, and most recently, Michigan and New York.
SB 5226 will keep Washington drivers licensed and insured. Please pass this legislation in 2021.
|Asia Pacific Cultural Center|
|Asian Counseling and Referral Service|
|Case by Case Legal Services PS|
|Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade|
|Columbia Legal Services|
|Cowlitz County Office of Public Defense|
|Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid|
|Dove House Advocacy Services - Recovery Cafe|
|Downtown On the Go|
|Everett Law Association|
|Evergreen Treatment Services|
|Express Credit Union|
|Faith Action Network|
|Greater Redmond Transportation Management Association|
|Grimm Law Group, PLLC|
|Hepatitis Education Project|
|Indivisible Vashon Immigrant/Refugee Rights Group|
|Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness|
|Jefferson Associated Counsel|
|Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle|
|Jewish Family Services|
|Latino Community Fund|
|Law Enforcement Action Partnership|
|League of Women Voters of Washington|
|LELO (Legacy of Equality Leadership & Organizing)|
|National Association of Social Workers WA Chapter|
|National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) WA State|
|National Women's Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation|
|Northwest Carpenters Union|
|Northwest Immigrant Rights Project|
|Olympic Community Action Programs|
|Peace & Justice Action League|
|Progreso: Latino Progress|
|Public Defender Association|
|Quaker Voice on Washington Public Policy|
|Seattle City Attorney's Office|
|Snohomish County Public Defender Association|
|Spokane Community Against Racism|
|Spokane Immigrant Rights Coalition|
|Stand for Children|
|Statewide Poverty Action Network|
|The Civil Survival Project|
|The Defender Initiative|
|The Hawkins Law Group|
|The STAR Project|
|Thurston County Public Defense|
|Transit Riders Union|
|Transportation Choices Coalition|
|Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle|
|WA Drivers Relicensing Taskforce|
|WA Immigrant Solidarity Network|
|Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers|
|Washington Defender Association|
|Washington Low Income Housing Alliance|
|Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility|
|Washington State Budget & Policy Center|
|Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence|