Study: Latinos, Blacks Lose Driver’s License At Disproportionate Numbers

It is inequality of driving privileges – minorities are losing their licenses because of failure to pay fines for other offences.  

LOS ANGELES (KABC) reports: From Long Beach to Lancaster, an analysis of DMV data by the Western Center on Law and Poverty shows that people of color are losing their drivers licenses in disproportionate numbers.

Drivers License_CA

How Cain lost his driver’s license is a profile of injustice, according to a coalition of legal advocates for the poor in California.  Like thousands of others, Cain’s offenses do not involve driving at all. He was first ticketed for getting on a metro train without paying a fare. The penalties snowballed when he couldn’t pay the fine.  “Initially the ticket was like $250. Then when I didn’t pay the ticket it kind of like doubled,” Cain explained.

Many people unable to pay their fines continue to drive, then get into deeper trouble. Los Angeles County deputies made an alarming number of arrests.   Those suspensions are not for reckless driving, but for failure to pay fines or appear in traffic court. Census maps show the vast majority of people impacted are African American or Latino in low income communities.

“It is a manifestation of a problem of debtors. When somebody can’t afford to pay a fine and that is their only crime, those people are being punished with a license suspension,” Zhen stated.

(Editor’s note:  The first crime was the offence that resulted in the fine.)

Lawyers for the poor meantime are pushing for Senate Bill 881 authored by State Senator Bob Hertzberg. It would end the practice of suspending licenses for failure to pay fines.



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