RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice is siding with a lawsuit challenging Virginia's practice of suspending the driver's licenses of people who can't pay court costs and fines.
Earlier in 2016, a report from the Legal Aid Justice Center found that one in six Virginia drivers were stripped of their licenses due to not paying court costs and fines.
The Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed with WHSV at the time that this accounted for around 914,000 drivers in the Commonwealth.
Soon afterward, the Legal Aid Justice Center filed a class action lawsuit against the Virginia DMV and its commissioner, Richard Holocomb, alleging that the DMV is acting unconstitutionally, specifically by unfairly targeting indigent individuals who live at or below the federal poverty limit and cannot afford to pay fines and court fees.
Now, media outlets report a team of DOJ civil rights lawyers filed a brief last week supporting the class-action lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, saying the practice violates the U.S. Constitution's due process guarantee.
The Legal Aid Justice Center filed the lawsuit in July on behalf of low-income drivers who lost their license for failing to pay court debts. The suit said the state's failure to take into account people's financial circumstances unfairly punishes the poor.
The center says nearly 1 million Virginians have their licenses suspended because of unpaid court costs or fines.
Virginia's attorney general wasn't immediately available for comment.