Michigan is Being Sued Over Driver’s License Suspensions

According to a federal lawsuit, Michigan is punishing poor people for being poor.


Imagine this: You live on a tight budget. You make just enough to pay your bills, feed your kids and put gas in your car. Most months there’s nothing left over, so when something unexpected comes up you struggle to make ends meet – having to choose between groceries, rent and whatever incidental you couldn’t afford to deal with. Like that speeding ticket you got last month when you were rushing to make it to work on time and you got pulled over doing 45 in a 35 zone.


Many people take the “you do the crime, you do the time” approach when it comes to people who struggle with the consequences of breaking the law. But there are certain instances where the consequences have far greater ramifications for some people than for others. Specifically, poor people. That’s why the state of Michigan is currently being sued in federal court, claims a plaintiff.


According to the lawsuit, the Secretary of State is running a scheme that penalizes poor people. The logic behind this accusation is that people who are too poor to pay their tickets fees and fines are losing their licenses, which has a huge impact on their ability to life live. In the words of the lawsuit, this “wealth-based scheme” forces poor people into a “downward spiral” that leaves them in an even worse place than before.


Being too poor to pay a ticket means losing your driver’s license.


Losing your driver’s license means basic everyday errands like grocery shopping, become exponentially harder. Not to mention the fact that getting to and from work becomes more time consuming, as public transport requires a lot more time to cover the same distance. If you have children that need to be dropped off at daycare before you go to work, this process can be practically impossible.


The lawsuit is being brought by a Washington DC based civil rights organization named Equal Justice Under Law. They hope to be able to restore driver’s licenses to Michigan drivers who have been unable to drive as a result of being too poor to pay tickets. According to the group the state of Michigan is failing to distinguish between people who are voluntarily refusing to pay their fines, and those who are simply unable to pay. Sometimes that line isn’t so clear.


Equal Justice Under Law argues that this practice violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment, along with the constitutional right to interstate travel. “Although Michigan’s automatic suspension of driver’s licenses is designed to coerce payment, for people who are unable to pay, Michigan’s practice will never accomplish its intended goal. Michigan has trapped Plaintiffs in an inescapable cycle of poverty by suspending their licenses.”


Since 2010, the Secretary of State has suspended more than 100,000 driver’s licenses for nonpayment of fees and fines. This, however, is not their fault says the Michigan SoS, because they are simply complying with state law, which requires that everyone who fails to pay a ticket is stripped of their driver’s license.


We will keep an eye on this lawsuit as it progresses and let you know what the results are. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of a crime anywhere in Michigan’s lower peninsula, contact The Kronzek Firm today at 866 766 5245. Our highly skilled defense attorneys are available 24/7 to answer your questions and provide you with experienced legal advice during your time of need.

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