PHOENIX — Arizonans who can’t pay their traffic fines won’t end up having to walk.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed legislation that eliminates the requirement for judges to suspend or restrict someone’s license to drive solely because they did not pay a civil penalty, fee or assessment for a citation. The legislation, which takes effect this summer, also gives judges more options to adjust even mandatory fines when there is a “hardship.”
Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, said that on any given day, out of the approximately 5.8 million driver’s licenses issued by the state there are about 30,000 suspended for failing to pay traffic fines.
“Those 30,000 folks are having to take public transportation,” he said. “They’re struggling to get to their job, to their employment, to doctor’s offices.”
And that, Boyer said, is a particular problem in a place like Arizona.
“We don’t build up. We build out. And to get around anywhere you really need a driver’s license,” he said, saying the public transit system “is not the most convenient.”
But Boyer said it’s more complicated than that.
Without the income, it becomes more difficult for people to pay off the debt and get their licenses back. And that, in turn, undermines their ability to support themselves and their families.
“Sometimes that means they get desperate and they drive on a suspended license, which of course can lead to a criminal record and a further downward spiral of financial penalties and hardship,” he said.
In essence the new law requires courts to set up a payment system while allowing people to continue to drive.
The option is not available to those who are convicted of driving under the influence. And those who have commercial licenses still are required to pay off their fines to keep their licenses.
But it is crafted so when the legislation takes effect — at a yet-to-be-determined date this summer — the state Department of Transportation is required to return the license of anyone whose privileges remain suspended due to failure to pay the fine, giving them the same right to a payment plan.
“Taking away an Arizonan’s driver’s license when they can’t pay for a traffic ticket just doesn’t make sense,” Ducey said in a prepared statement.
On Twitter: @azcapmedia.