Delegate Hamrick praises passage of bill to end process of suspending licenses for unpaid fines, fees

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Delegate Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, said a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House of Delegates Wednesday would eliminate the dilemma many people face when they can’t work because their driver’s license has been suspended due to unpaid fines and court costs.

Delegates voted 89-9 Wednesday to approve House Bill 4958, which eliminates the process of suspending a person’s driver’s license due to failure to pay court costs or fines.

Delegate Hamrick, who was lead sponsor of the bill, said the proposal is designed to help people who have made a mistake keep or find work while trying to pay the fines and fees associated with things like common traffic violations.

“Many West Virginians are caught in a catch-22: They can’t get a job because they don’t have a license, but they can’t get their license because they don’t have a job to afford paying off the fines,” Delegate Hamrick said. “This bill is designed to help remove that dilemma.”

The bill would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay court fines and costs and would instead require court clerks to offer a payment plan for court costs, fines or fees if a person signs an affidavit stating that they are unable to pay.

The bill also gives the court clerks different avenues to use as recourse for costs and fines that remain unpaid.

While the bill does end the process of suspending licenses for failing to pay fines and costs, the bill still allows courts to suspend driver’s licenses for failure to respond or appear in court.

Additionally, for people who have or will have had their license suspended before July 1, the bill allows them to have their license reinstated after they set up a payment plan or pay their costs all at once with a reduced fee.

“This is a common-sense reform designed to get people to pay their debt to society while also still maintaining the ability to keep or find a job,” Delegate Hamrick said. “This isn’t about letting people off without paying costs. In fact, other states like Colorado that have introduced this legislation have actually seen an increase in the amount of court costs and fines paid off after it went into effect.

“This is another smart justice reform that ensures people are allowed to pay their debts for breaking the law without taking away their ability to work or find future employment,” Delegate Hamrick said. “I’m hopeful our colleagues in the Senate will take up this bill soon.”

The bill was co-sponsored with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Delegates Joe Canestraro, D-Marshall; David Kelly, R-Tyler; Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell; Rodney Miller, D-Boone; John Shott, R-Mercer; Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha; John Mandt, R-Cabell; Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia; Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha; and Rodney Pyles, D-Monongalia.

It is now awaiting further consideration in the state Senate.

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