In Montana, when people are unable to expeditiously pay their court fines and fees, they get their driver’s licenses suspended. This policy disproportionately affects low-income Montanans who need a reliable mode of transportation to get to work in order to make money and pay those fines.
This is a vicious cycle of court debt that is hard to escape. People lose jobs, have trouble getting jobs and suffer other socioeconomic consequences because of it. It’s time for Montana legislators to end that cycle and replace it with commonsense policies.
For example, a “Compliance Assistance Program” was implemented in Phoenix to help drivers repay fines and fees. The program established a payment schedule that fit drivers’ budgets and allowed licenses to be reinstated during payment. Ultimately, the program helped 41.2 percent of its program participants increase their income (a median increase of $24,000) and created an extra $150 million in additional GDP because more people stayed in the workforce.
Instead of suspending driver’s licenses over traffic violations and court fines and fees, Montana lawmakers should institute payment plans that would take into account people’s ability to pay, as well as nonfinancial options, such as community service.
Send the governor a message and tell him to end the vicious court debt cycle, today!