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DOJ Says Virginia License Suspension Law Unconstitutional


The suspension of someone’s driver’s license is a penalty for many different crimes and misconducts under Virginia law. However, the law may have to change soon for some people facing license suspension. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently commented on a Virginia law that automatically suspends the driver’s licenses of people that have unpaid court costs. The DOJ echoed a defense attorneys’ argument that an automatic driver’s license suspension for failure to pay court fees without a further inquiry into the circumstances of the person is a violation of the due process clause of the Constitution. If you are facing a driver’s license suspension for any reason, you should contact skilled traffic violations, penalties and fines attorneys to help you keep your license.

Current Virginia Law

In Virginia, there is a law that allows for the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for people who do not pay required court fines, restitution, or other costs. There is no requirement that the court inquire into the circumstances of the individual to see if they are able to pay the court costs before their license is suspended. In 2015, there were 900,000 people in Virginia with suspended licenses; suspensions appear to disproportionately affect the poor and people of color.  The driver’s license suspensions last until the fines are paid. Judges in Virginia are able to order community service instead of fines, but in practice this rarely happens. Drivers are also able to set up a payment plan with the court, but once again, courts do not often approve these plans and drivers also usually do not know about this option.

The Challenge to the Law

Attorneys at the Legal Aid Justice Center brought the suit to challenge the constitutionality of this law because there is no hearing to see whether the individual can pay, which attorneys allege is a violation of the 14th Amendment guarantee of due process. Attorneys are also concerned that the law disproportionately affects poor people and people of color, which is why attorneys from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) weighed in on this case on the side of the challengers.

DOJ’s Perspective

The DOJ agreed with challengers to the law and said that suspension of a driver’s license due to failure to pay court debt without a “meaningful opportunity (for the driver) to be heard” is a violation of the Constitutional requirement for due process.

New Law

There is a new law that was passed to address some of these concerns. It allows for payment plans when there is a showing of needbut some attorneys still think it does not go far enough.

Contact Us for Professional Assistance

The suspension of your driver’s license is a serious penalty that can have a huge effect on your life. No matter what the cause, if you are facing a suspension of your driver’s license, you should contact knowledgeable traffic violation, penalties and fines attorneys as soon as possible. Our experienced traffic violations, penalties and fines attorneys at Simms Showers, LLP serve clients in Leesburg, Loudoun County and Frederick County and can help to make sure that you keep your license.




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