Racial Justice Project



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Between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued almost 1.7 million driver’s license suspensions for traffic debt—nonpayments of traffic tickets and nonappearances in traffic court.1 As this paper demonstrates, traffic debt suspensions disproportionately harm communities of color in New York. Traffic debt suspensions force people to make an impossible choice: stop driving—and lose access to work, childcare, health care, food, and other basic necessities—or keep driving, and risk criminal charges, more unaffordable fines and fees, and even incarceration. License-for-payment laws ultimately create conditions that parallel modern-day debtor’s prisons. For these reasons, the New York Law School (NYLS) Racial Justice Project urges New York lawmakers to support the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act (Senate Bill S5348A), which would end suspensions for nonpayments of traffic tickets and nonappearances in traffic court, practices which unduly target and harm communities of color.

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DRIVING WHILE BLACK AND LATINX: Stops, Fines, Fees, and Unjust Debts