CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A bill to prevent a person’s license from being suspended due to unpaid fines and court costs passed the West Virginia House of Delegates Wednesday with a 89-9 vote.
Lead sponsor of House Bill 4958, Del. Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, said the issue causes a dilemma for many people when they can’t work because their driver’s license has been suspended. He said the proposal is designed to help people who have made a mistake keep or find work while trying to pay the fines and fees associated with things like common traffic violations.
“Many West Virginians are caught in a catch-22: They can’t get a job because they don’t have a license, but they can’t get their license because they don’t have a job to afford paying off the fines,” Hamrick said. “This bill is designed to help remove that dilemma.”
Instead of suspending driver’s licenses, the bill would require court clerks to offer a payment plan for court costs, fines or fees if a person signs an affidavit stating that they are unable to pay, according to Hamrick. It also gives the court clerks different resources to help with the unpaid costs and fines.
The bill is part of a move designed to reform the state’s criminal justice system by taking down barriers for people working for a second chance at life so they can rejoin and be productive members of the community.
While the bill does end the process of suspending licenses for failing to pay fines and costs, Hamrick said it still allows courts to suspend driver’s licenses for failure to respond or appear in court. People who have or will have had their license suspended before July 1 would be allowed to have their license reinstated after they setting up a payment plan or paying their costs all at once with a reduced fee.
The bill now moves to the State Senate.