Reforming traffic fine collections

On Friday Governor Jay Inslee signed into law legislation putting in place a plan to tackle challenges posed by the significant number of driver’s license suspensions in Washington.

I sponsored Senate Bill 6360, which will bring together law enforcement, the courts, and other stakeholders to address the challenges faced by drivers who lose their licenses solely because they are unable to pay traffic fines.

It benefits no one when drivers lose their licenses just because they can’t pay their fines. This bill is a common-sense approach to fixing an administrative problem that will ease the burden on courts, and keep drivers on the road as long as they’re making progress on their obligations.

The Department of Licensing reports more than 380,000 Washingtonians have suspended or revoked driver’s licenses — over 5 percent of the state’s population. A significant number of suspensions are solely the result of a failure to pay traffic fines.

Drivers who can afford to pay a traffic fine can continue to drive legally without further problem. But for otherwise law-abiding residents who can’t afford to pay a ticket, they may not be able to secure a payment plan that they can reasonably afford, and nonpayment leads to license suspension and a cycle of escalating penalties and fees.

Under the bill, the Attorney General’s Office will lead a group of stakeholders to develop a proposed program that will allow people to consolidate their traffic obligations across jurisdictions into a realistic, unified payment plan. A final report and plan is due to the Legislature no later than Dec. 1, 2017.