NY law ends driver’s license suspensions for inability to pay traffic fines

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Cars on a New York City highway

Traffic moves along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, August 2, 2018 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Starting Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are on track to get their driver’s licenses reinstated as a new law takes effect that ends the widespread practice of suspending a person’s license when they can’t afford to pay a traffic fine.

The Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act, sponsored by Sen. Tim Kennedy of Buffalo and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter of Syracuse, was approved by New York legislature last year and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The new law will also make affordable payment plans available for those who can’t afford their traffic fines, including those who currently have a suspended license due to non-payment of traffic fines.

Under the new payment plans, individuals will only have to pay 2% of their monthly income or $25 a month, whichever is greater, toward their traffic fines.

The new option is also extended to those drivers whose licenses were suspended for missing a traffic hearing, often because they could not afford the the fines.

“Suspending a license for failure to pay a fine does nothing but punish low-income families that are disproportionately people of color,” Assemblymember Hunter said in a statement. “An income-based payment plan is fair and ensures everyone has an opportunity to resolve their license issues.”

Between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued nearly 1.7 million driver’s license suspensions for non-payment of traffic fines and non-appearance at traffic hearings, according to the Fines and Fees Justice Center.

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