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Advocates push legislation that would end driver's license suspensions for unpaid fines

Ellen Abbott
Advocates are pushing state legislation that would end the suspension driver’s licenses for people with unpaid traffic tickets";

Advocates are pushing state legislation that would end the suspension of driver’s licenses for people with unpaid traffic tickets.

There’s one zip code in the City of Syracuse that dwarfs all others when it comes to license suspension due to unpaid traffic fines. 13205. That neighborhood on Syracuse’s south side sees this happen more than twice the statewide average, according to Katie Adamides, the New York State Director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center.

"Traffic debt can become thousands of dollars very easily," Adamides said. "Because one traffic stop can lead to multiple tickets. And each ticket can lead to, not only the underlining fine, and also fees, and then additional fees to reinstate the license.”

Adamides and others are pushing New York State to pass a law that would make courts offer income-based monthly payment plans, when someone can’t pay their tickets, instead of yanking a license.  

Syracuse area Assemblywoman Pam Hunter is a sponsor of the bill in the Assembly. She said this affects low income individuals disproportionately.

"You shouldn’t have to go broke in order to make sure you keep your license.”

Hunter said the legislation would offer people payment plans to pay down their debt, instead of taking licenses away.  

"We do this with people who have credit card debt. We do this with people who have debt with collection agencies. This is no different," Hunter said.

The legislation doesn’t apply to tickets involving criminal charges like DWI. It’s already passed the state Senate. Hunter hopes it makes it through the Assembly next year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.