RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In just two months, hundreds of thousands of Virginians with suspended licenses will have their driving privileges restored – automatically. A new law reverses the Commonwealth's years-old practice of suspending your license if you have unpaid court costs. Advocates say that practice over-taxed those with the greatest need.
If you have a suspended license because of unpaid court costs, you will be able to get behind the wheel again, as long as that license hasn’t expired, on July 1.
Sheba Williams runs NoLef Turns, Inc. and serves as an advocate of the people - people who send her messages day after day.
“‘I’ve owed court fines since ’93,’” she said reading one message.
Or better yet.
"‘My license is currently suspended. It’s been suspended since I was 18. I’m 30 now,’” she said reading another message.
In both cases, it’s because of court fees. Williams has come to understand their stories.
"If you go to traffic court, it may be anywhere from $66 to maybe $200 just for fees…If you can’t afford it, you’re in trouble,” she said.
It’s had a big impact.
"Getting to and from working, being able to pick your kids up from sporting events, insurance rates because you have to be licensed to have insurance on your vehicle. If you don’t, it drives your insurance rates up…Maybe my kid didn’t get to school because I didn’t have the transportation and the bus didn’t come close enough,” she said explaining real-life circumstances people face.
Come July, 613,000 drivers whose licenses have been suspended for failing to pay court costs will be able to drive again.
"For some folks it may be as simple as going to the DMV to get a vision screening and a new photo. For other folks there may be some more things they need to take care of. For some people, there may not be anything they need to do,” said Brandy Brubaker of the DMV.
Brubaker says the new law will get rid of the $145 reinstatement fee drivers had to pay in the past.
“How can you justify penalizing a person for a non-traffic related offense?” Williams asked.
The DMV is drafting up letters to let affected drivers know the exact steps they need to take. Keep in mind, this law doesn't get rid of past due court costs. Those are still due. Also, if a license has expired, the normal costs apply to get a new one.
The Virginia DMV is sharing the following additional information:
- Effective July 1, 2019, Virginia law will change to prohibit courts from suspending someone’s driving privilege solely for failure to pay court fines and costs. This change does not address non-payment of tolls.
- Also beginning July 1, anyone whose driving privilege has been suspended solely for failure to pay court fines and costs will have his/her driving privilege reinstated. These individuals will not owe a reinstatement fee.
- The law change only affects a person’s ability to get their driver’s license back. It does not eliminate the requirement to pay the underlying court costs and fines.
What do customers need to do?
- Make sure your mailing address is up-to-date by visiting dmvNOW.com.
- DMV will be contacting individuals who currently live in Virginia and are suspended for failure to pay court fines and costs to advise them of their specific requirements to get their driver’s licenses.
- The customers will go through the standard application process, including a new photo and vision screening.
- There may be other requirements, as well, such as proof of permanent legal presence in the United States (i.e. birth certificate, U. S. Passport, legal permanent resident card) and/or testing, depending upon whether there is evidence the individual has ever held a license.
- If there is evidence someone has held a license, no testing will be required unless required as a result of a driver’s license revocation.
Customers who still have their physical license and it is not expired and who have presented DMV with proof of their permanent legal presence in the United States (i.e. birth certificate, U. S. Passport, legal permanent resident card) will not need to take any action. Their license will be valid as of July 1.
- Customers who do not have their physical license and/or the license is expired will have to obtain a replacement driver’s license or renew their license and will pay the usual driver’s license issue fee ($20 for a replacement or $32 for an eight-year renewal, an additional $10 for REAL ID). If the customer has not presented DMV with proof of their permanent legal presence in the United States (i.e. birth certificate, U. S. Passport, legal permanent resident card), proof of legal presence will be required.
- Individuals who do not live in Virginia need not take any action if their driving privilege was suspended solely for failure to pay court fines and costs. Their Virginia suspensions for failure to pay court fines and costs will no longer be visible to other states’ driver licensing agencies on/after July 1.
- DMV offices will be extremely busy in the summer months and advises customers to expect longer than normal waits for service. Customers are encouraged to use alternative services (dmvNOW.com, mail, DMV Selects) for routine services.
- Reinstatement fees previously paid will not be refunded.
- If individuals’ driving privileges have been suspended or revoked for other reasons, in addition to failure to pay court fines and costs, they will need to meet any other court or DMV requirements to include payment of reinstatement fees to regain their driving privileges.
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