On Friday, I reported out a part of a miscellaneous judiciary bill, S.234. The following is my report:
In a rural state like Vermont, access to transportation is critical for economic prosperity, public safety, and healthy communities. Many Vermonters lack access to a vehicle or public transportation, but a less obvious barrier exists in the form of driver’s license suspensions. Most driver’s license suspensions are due to either failure to pay underlying tickets or the failure to pay the reinstatement fee necessary to get the license back. Around 25,000 Vermonters have a suspended license because they have not paid their tickets or their reinstatement fee. Often, their poverty keeps them from being able to pay. Often, their inability to drive to work perpetuates that poverty. In short, suspended licenses are often a result of poverty and a contributing factor to poverty in Vermont.
Over the past several years, the legislature has passed bills that reduce the number of individuals who have a suspended license solely because of failure to pay a fine or court fees. Section 25 of S.234 continues that work.
Section 25 establishes a Reinstatement Fee Waiver Program. It requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to reinstate drivers’ licenses without requiring a reinstatement fee under certain conditions. Vermonters who have had their licenses suspended for non-criminal reasons can have their license reinstated if the suspension has lasted more than one year and if the person has satisfied all other reinstatement conditions and requirements. Reinstatement fees are also waived for people whose licenses were suspended for failure to pay the court fine prior to July 1, 2014, when such suspensions were indefinite. People whose licenses are under suspension for accumulating 10 or more points as of the program’s effective date are not eligible for the fee waiver. DMV must reinstate eligible licenses by April 30, 2021.
The version of the Program in the House bill makes a change to the Senate bill, which had waived the operator’s court fines and fees in addition to the DMV reinstatement fee. Under the House proposed amendment, individuals are still obligated to pay any fines or court fees they still owe. But they can drive under a valid license.
Here is some additional information that I gathered that I did not include in my report to the virtual House Floor:
The following is a fairly comprehensive sampling of non-criminal reasons for suspension:
- Counterfeit, fraud, and misuse (motor vehicle documents) pursuant to 23 V.S.A. § 203;
- Point accumulation pursuant to 23 V.S.A. § 2506;
- Nonpayment pursuant to 4 V.S.A. § 1109(b)(2);
- Civil suspensions for DUIs pursuant to 23 V.S.A. § 1205;
- Failure to produce proof of insurance pursuant to 23 V.S.A.§ 802;
- Competency suspensions pursuant to 23 V.S.A. § 671;
- Under 21 with a BAC of .02 or more pursuant to 23 V.S.A. § 1216;
- Certain under 21 alcohol and cannabis violations/failure to complete diversion pursuant to 7 V.S.A. § 656 and 18 V.S.A. § 4230b.
As for reinstatement conditions, this is from the DMV’s website:
Reinstatement requirements will vary depending on your offense. Contact us for your specific requirements. Common requirements may include:
· Submit an SR-22 (proof of insurance)
· Retake and pass the driving skills and knowledge tests
· Satisfy any court requirements
· Pay reinstatement fee(s)
· Obtain medical clearance
· Complete alcohol courses as ordered by the courts
Until July 1, 2014, all suspensions for failure to pay a penalty imposed by the Judicial Bureau were indefinite. Act 128 of 2013, Section 3, provided that motorists whose licenses were suspended for unpaid tickets would be eligible for reinstatement after 120 days. The reinstatement was not automatic (a reinstatement fee was required) and DMV did not apply this retroactively to suspensions already in existence on 7/1/14 when the Act took effect. The time limit means that the person can get their license reinstated by paying the reinstatement fee after 120 days even if they never pay the penalty itself. The 120-day limit was shortened to 30 days by Act 147 of 2016, Section 5.