Currently, over 175,000 people in Washington have a suspended driver's license. This is because DWLS3, which criminalizes nonpayment of certain traffic fines and results in license suspensions, is the most prosecuted crime in the State. Between 1994 and 2017, Washington spent at least $1.3 billion enforcing this law.
If a person cannot pay a traffic fine, and then loses their ability to travel to and from work, they become trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime. Even if they find a way of traveling to work, a criminal conviction for violating DWLS3 creates barriers to employment, reducing that person's earning potential. This is a very real hardship for thousands of people across our state who cannot support their families or fully engage in our economy.
HB 1282 / SB 5328 would decriminalize nonpayment of traffic fines and impose a civil assessment in its place. This modification would promote fairness and equity in our criminal justice system by eliminating an economic crime that disproportionately affects low-income drivers and people of color. Moreover, reducing the grounds for license suspensions also promotes public safety by allowing people to remain licensed and insured regardless of their income level. Please write to your Legislator now and urge them to vote yes on these bills!
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