Hundreds of thousands of North Carolina drivers have a suspended license for unpaid traffic court fines and fees. The practice of suspending drivers’ licenses for unpaid fines and fees is inequitable and counterproductive. This practice disenfranchises rural drivers and those facing poverty and creates a significant obstacle to employment. Furthermore, African-American drivers are four times as likely as non-Hispanic, white drivers to have a suspended license for unpaid fines and fees. Drawing upon lessons learned from the Driver’s License Restoration Project, the Authors conclude that legislative action is needed to remedy this inequitable and inefficient system of collecting state revenue. North Carolina should cease the practice of suspending licenses for unpaid fines and fees, pursue a decrease in criminal court fees and fines overall, and implement a sliding scale structure for fees and fines that makes a fact-specific determination about an individual’s real wages and ability to pay. This recommendation would lead to greater racial and economic equity, strengthen the North Carolina economy, and increase the aggregate amount of fees and fines collected by the state. This Article is a continuation of a prior published work, The Poverty Penalty: Driver’s License Restoration In North Carolina.
Jennifer M. Lechner and B. Leigh Wicclair, Driven to Despair: Confronting Racial Inequity in North Carolina's License Suspension Practices, 43 Campbell L. Rev. 203 (2021).