On February 5th, 2021, JAC attorney Nat Jacob testified before the Senate Law & Justice committee in Washington State in favor of 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.
“The current law doesn’t just disproportionately affect the poor, it exclusively affects the poor,” Jacob said during his testimony. “It criminalizes conduct that has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with a person’s ability to pay.”
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.”
Here are some other helpful links to learn more about DWLS3: