License Suspensions Disproportionately Affect the Poor

For those who struggle to make ends meet, a traffic ticket can open up a Pandora’s Box and what starts as a $150 fine can quickly snowball. Failing to respond to the ticket (or pleading not guilty and failing to show in court) automatically results in a suspended license. This will add $70 to what you owe New York State in the form of a suspension termination fee. In addition, unless you live in a major metropolitan area with abundant public transportation, a license suspension could affect your employment status and future employment opportunities.

A recent article in the News and Observer explained how this cycle of tickets, suspensions, and jail time tends to plague low-income drivers, particularly those who need their vehicles for work. Many Americans, when faced with a suspended license, opt to continue driving in order to keep their job. However, each and every traffic stop can result in an arrest for driving on a suspended license. This can add between $200 and $500 to the debt you owe the state, not including the cost of bail.

For drivers who earn well above the median wage of $56,516, that initial $150 ticket is generally manageable. For those further down the socioeconomic ladder, however, the risk of getting stuck in the cycle of fines and jail is much, much greater.

Thankfully, there are options available to New Yorkers who find themselves in such a situation. For starters, the DMV offers opportunities to set up payment plans for drivers who have accrued debt, provided they do not already have a default conviction for failing to answer a ticket. If you haven’t been convicted yet, you can also fight the ticket in court or attempt to plead it down to a lower-cost violation. If your license has already been suspended or revoked, your best bet will be to hire a lawyer to help fight the suspension.

For drivers who require their car to get to work, it is tempting to continue driving rather than risk losing your job. Getting caught driving without a valid license, however, could result in a charge of aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO). This is a misdemeanor and a conviction means you will have a criminal record. You could also face a fine of up to $500 and 30 days of jail time. In addition, if you have had your license suspended 10 times on 10 different dates, you could be charged with AUO in the first degree. This is a felony and carries a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, plus up to four years in prison.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for driving without a valid driver’s license or any other traffic-related crime in New York, it is absolutely vital that you hire an attorney to help reinstate your license and break the vicious cycle. The attorneys of the Rosenblum Law Firm have helped many people in similar situations. Call us at 888-203-2619 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

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