License Suspensions for Nondriving Offenses: Practices in Four States That May Ease the Financial Impact on Low-Income Individuals

States suspend driver’s licenses for a variety of offenses that are not directly related to driving safety. For example, all states have procedures to suspend licenses for child support arrearages. In addition, a majority of states issue suspensions for such offenses as failure to pay court or motor vehicle fines or maintain proper insurance. While recognizing that license suspension can be an effective tool for encouraging compliance with various laws, some policymakers and advocacy groups have raised concerns that certain drivers may face suspension because of their limited ability to meet financial obligations. They have also raised concerns that suspensions make it difficult for some low-income individuals to maintain or find work, and may make it more challenging for them to pay fines or meet child support obligations. Additionally, they have raised concerns that suspensions for nondriving offenses may clog court systems and divert resources to activities that do not improve traffic safety. Although the federal government has a limited role with regard to driver’s licenses, federal law promotes nondriving suspensions in two circumstances. First, as a condition of federal funding for their child support enforcement programs, states are required to provide for license suspensions for individuals delinquent in making child support payments. Second, 10 percent of certain federal highway funds are contingent upon a state (a) enacting and enforcing a law that suspends driver’s licenses, in all cases, or except in compelling circumstances, for individuals convicted of drug offenses, or (b) its governor certifying that he or she is opposed to such a law and that the state legislature has adopted a resolution opposing it. Thirty-two states have chosen the second option. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the following issues related to nondriving license suspensions: 1. Practices in place that may ease the financial impact on low-income individuals. 2. Any challenges involved in implementing these practices. In general, GAO found the following:(1) In the four states it studied, GAO found three types of practices that may ease the financial impact of suspensions on low-income individuals: payment assistance, license reinstatement support, and suspension exemptions. (2) Challenges to implementing these practices include the need to garner support from multiple organizations, difficulties in crossing jurisdictional boundaries, and sustaining program funding, according to program staff.


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Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: Appendices;
  • Pagination: 54p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01151293
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO-10-217
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 18 2010 12:37PM