In North Carolina, a driver’s license is automatically suspended for traffic debt that is not paid or resolved by a set deadline. For example, if a person went to court and pled to a traffic ticket but was unable to pay the resulting costs and fine, the court sends notice to DMV and DMV revokes the person’s driver’s license (or privilege to drive if he or she never had a NC driver’s license). Because of this, more than 322,000 drivers in North Carolina have suspended driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic fines and fees. Not having a driver’s license can create barriers to opportunity by making it hard to get a meaningful job or affordable housing. It can also make it hard to attend doctor’s appointments or care for family members. Low-income families and families of color are disproportionately affected by driver’s license suspensions based on traffic debt.
Advocates, directly impacted people, and concerned citizens are working to improve North Carolina’s driver’s license suspension law. Efforts include working with the district attorney’s office to eliminate traffic debt leading to long term driver’s license suspension, planning and conducting legal clinics, and advocating to change state law to eliminate or reduce debt-based driver’s license suspension.