License suspensions lifted for 600,000 Virginians this summer

By  | 

ROANOKE, Va (WDBJ7) At the Valley Metro bus station in Roanoke, you can find plenty of people waiting, including Talita Hudson.

"Because my driver's license, it got suspended," she said.

A couple of years ago, Hudson was charged with public intoxication, and, because she was unemployed, she says she couldn't pay the fine. The court suspended her license.

"I have to call the Medicaid company to get transport to doctor's appointments, I have to find other people around to get rides," she said.

However, last week the Virginia General assembly voted to put an end to suspensions like Hudson's. The measure received broad bipartisan support.

Under the old law, if you fail to pay court fees, your license can be suspended, whether or not those fees are driving related. The General Assembly put an end to that, with a budget amendment proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

"I feel fantastic," said Republican Virginia State Senator Bill Stanley. Stanley has been fighting for this change for the last three years, and encouraged Northam to propose the amendment.

"As a trial lawyer I see it in our courtrooms every day: people just cannot afford to pay these fines and court costs," said Stanley.

But opponents of the measure have argued that taking away licenses is one of the few ways to force people to pay their fines.

"That's the rationale that's been used to justify this law over the years," said Attorney O Randolph Rollins.

Rollins worked alongside the General Assembly to end the license suspensions. He believes people will be in a better position to pay fines and court costs.

"They've been limited in their ability to drive, and work, and actually pay these fines that they owe," said Rollins

The General Assembly's change doesn't end all suspensions, such as for drunk or reckless driving. And because it was passed as a budget amendment, the measure is only temporary and will expire next July if not renewed.

"We're gonna have to come back next year and fix this and make it more permanent," said Stanley.