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Ivey signs bill giving more leniency before driver’s license suspension

Advocates argued that debt-based suspensions only created further harm.

Alabama driver's licenses.

On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation that will give individuals more leniency before their drivers’ license is suspended under specific circumstances.

SB154, sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, requires that individuals can miss up to three payments for missed fines and fees or one court appearance prior to suspension of their license. The law will go into effect on Oct. 1. 

Several organizations have advocated strongly for this legislation including the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. They argue that debt-based suspensions only create further harm as many people are then unable to drive to work and make money to pay off the debt. 

Leah Nelson, Research Director for Alabama Appleseed, told APR that peoples’ lives are messy and different factors may affect an individual’s ability to get to court like lack of childcare, car problems, or no reliable help. Nelson stated that people will still have to do their part and be accountable and show up to court but the bill was a step in the right direction and hopefully helps lawmakers think about the issues affecting its citizens. 

“This gives people just a little bit of space when that [making payments or going to court] just isn’t possible,” Nelson said. “And that’s going to be a huge deal for people don’t have a lot of money and don’t have a lot of access to wealth…I think it’s very important for the state to think about the realities of the people who live in it.”

Policy Director for Alabama Appleseed, Frederick Spight, also provided a comment.

“This legislation will provide much needed grace and relief to some of Alabama’s poorest citizens,” Spight said. “This will affect thousands across the state as it will give those who are the most financially vulnerable a chance to retain their licenses and thereby provide them the time and ability to pay off their tickets while also being full participating members in our society.”

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While the final version of the bill did not include everything the advocates hoped for, they still felt it was a step in the right direction. Read Alabama Appleseed’s report on the affects of debt-based driver’s license suspensions. 

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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