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Unpaid traffic fines no longer lead to license suspension

Some Mississippians will be getting their licenses reinstated, according to an agreement between the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University Mississippi School of Law and the Department of Public Safety. According to the agreement, drivers who had their licenses suspended for failing to pay a traffic-related fine will have their licenses reinstated in January 2018.

A press release from the Southern Poverty Law Center stated that the drivers' license suspensions for unpaid tickets is an example of how the state criminalizes poverty. According to the US Census Bureau, Mississippi is the poorest state in America, with over 20 percent of the population living in poverty. More than 95 percent of Mississippi residents drive to work. Low-income residents of Mississippi may have not been able to afford the traffic tickets and were then unable to drive to work after their drivers' licenses were suspended, exacerbating an already difficult situation.

Mississippi drivers may also get their drivers' licenses suspended for failure to pay child support and for being found guilty of driving under the influence. A local lawmaker believes that suspending drivers' licenses is not an appropriate punishment for those found guilty of not paying fines or child support because it restricts their ability to get to work and earn money to make those payments.

It is estimated that over 100,000 drivers licenses will be reinstated across the state. Drivers licenses that were revoked due to failure to pay child support or being arrested for a DUI will not be reinstated. Also, those who commit such offenses may still face drivers' license suspension and other penalties that may require the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: Picayune Item, "Delinquent fines no longer results in license suspension," Dec. 21, 2017

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