Last July, The Voice reported that low income Californians, especially people of color are being disproportionately impacted by state laws and procedures related to driver’s license suspensions. The article highlighted a reality in California that due to increased fines, fees and reduced access to courts—more than four million Californians had suspended driver’s licenses.
The article also noted how such suspensions made it harder for people to get and keep jobs, harmed credit ratings and raised public safety concerns. Ultimately, the suspensions keep people in long cycles of poverty that are difficult, if not impossible, for many to overcome.
A recent study by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area recently confirmed the July findings. The Committee’s report, Stopped, Fined, Arrested – Racial Bias in Policing and Traffic Courts in California, revealed dramatic racial and socioeconomic disparities in driver’s license suspensions and arrests related to unpaid traffic fines and fees.
The report proved a clear correlation between rates of driver’s license suspensions due to a failure to appear or pay a ticket to poverty indicators and race. It statistically and clearly supported the assertion that Black and Latino motorists are disproportionately arrested for driving with a suspended license and for warrants for failure to appear or pay on an infraction citation.
The report’s researchers used public records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and U.S. Census data to demonstrate that in primarily Black and Latino communities, driver’s license suspension rates ranged as high as five times the state average. In addition, data collected from 15 police and sheriff’s departments across the state showed that Black motorists are far more likely to be arrested for driving with a suspended license for failure to pay an infraction citation than White motorists.
This was the first time ever such a great volume of data was made available for the public to analyze. To view the report in detail, visit lccr.com/wp-content/uploads/Stopped_Fined_ Arrested_BOTRCA.pdf.