BILL NUMBER: SB 405 INTRODUCED BILL TEXT INTRODUCED BY Senator Hertzberg FEBRUARY 25, 2015 An act relating to vehicles. LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST SB 405, as introduced, Hertzberg. Vehicles: failure to appear or pay fine: suspension of driving privilege. Existing law authorizes the magistrate or clerk of a court to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles if any person has violated a written promise to appear or an order to appear, or willfully fails to pay a fine for a violation of specified provisions of the Vehicle Code. Existing law requires the department to suspend the driver's license of a person upon receipt of the above-described notice from the court that the person has violated a written promise to appear or willfully failed to pay a fine, if there are prior violations, as specified. This bill would declare the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to significantly reduce the number of persons who have their driver's license suspended and to establish a process for persons with a current suspension to get their driving privileges restored without first having to pay all court-ordered debt. Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no. State-mandated local program: no. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: SECTION 1. (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following: (1) Driving in California is often described as a privilege, but for millions of Californians it is an economic necessity. Each day millions of Californians take to the road to go to work, drop off their children at school and activities, go shopping, and visit family. Without the ability to drive, millions of families cannot afford to pay the cost of housing, pay utilities, put food on the table, afford clothing for their children, or be able to save for retirement. In short, driving is a fundamental need of virtually every person in the state. (2) Unfortunately, millions of Californians have lost the ability to drive legally. Their driver's licenses have been suspended, not because they are a danger to public safety, but because they could not pay fines associated with minor traffic tickets and other related fees and assessments. In the past five years, the Department of Motor Vehicles has suspended more than 2.7 million driver's licenses for drivers' failure to appear in court or failure to make payments ordered by a court. The Legislative Analyst's Office reports that there is currently more than $10 billion in court-ordered, uncollected debt in California and $8 billion of this amount is for unpaid traffic violations. (3) For many families, a driver's license suspension is the beginning of a descent into abject poverty for which there is no escape. Legal services advocates report that once a person gets his or her driver's license suspended in California, it is virtually impossible for the driver's license to be restored until all the unpaid fees, fines and assessments are completely paid. Many people with a suspended driver's license are low income and can only pay the debt off a little at a time. Others are unemployed or on public assistance and cannot afford to make any payments. The state of New Jersey did a study of persons with suspended driver's licenses and found that 42 percent lost their jobs after their driver's licenses were suspended and less than half of them were able to find new jobs; 88 percent experienced a loss of income. (4) The original rationale for suspending driver's licenses was to compel persons who had committed a serious public safety violation to correct his or her behavior. This rationale over time has been extended to hundreds of nonpublic safety violations. As a report by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), "Best Practices Guide to Reducing Suspended Drivers" notes, all 50 states now suspend driver's licenses for nonhighway safety reasons. The AAMVA report recommends that states repeal laws that lead to driver's license suspensions for nonpublic safety reasons and replace those suspensions with payment plans and wage garnishments to collect court-ordered debt. (b) It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to significantly reduce the number of persons who have their driver's licenses suspended and to establish a process for persons with current suspensions to get their driving privileges restored without first having to pay all court-ordered debt.