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Virginia driver’s licenses suspended for unpaid court fees to be reinstated July 1

(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 3, 2019 at 3:47 PM EDT
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Virginia residents with suspended driver's licenses because of unpaid court debt are getting letters telling them how to restore their driving privileges.

Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine says the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is sending over half a million letters to Virginia residents with suspended licenses. The letters advise residents about what's required before they can drive.

On July 1, Virginia residents whose licenses were suspended because they didn't promptly pay their court debt will have their driving privileges restored and the reinstatement fee waived.

Also as of July 1, courts will be prohibited from suspending driving privileges solely for failure to pay court fines and costs.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed a budget amendment earlier this year temporarily halting the suspension of driver's licenses for unpaid court fines and fees.

Even though they can get their licenses back, the affected drivers still must pay the court costs and fines.

“Earlier this year, I was proud to sign legislation to ending the counterproductive practice of suspending driving privileges for failure to pay court fines and costs,” said Governor Northam. “I appreciate the hard work taking place at the DMV now to ensure that starting July 1, hundreds of thousands of impacted Virginians will be able to move their lives forward.”

The reinstatement does not apply to any Virginian who had driving privileges revoked for reasons other than court costs.

“It is long overdue that Virginia end its inequitable practice of suspending driving privileges for failure to pay court fines and costs,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “This is a significant step in the right direction toward getting Virginians back to work and enabling them to support their families.”

Advocates say the old practice of license suspension over-taxed those with the greatest need.

Come July, 613,000 drivers whose licenses have been suspended for failing to pay court costs will be able to drive again, so long as their licenses haven't expired.

"For some folks, it may be as simple as going to the DMV to get a vision screening and a new photo. For other folks, there may be some more things they need to take care of. For some people, there may not be anything they need to do,” said Brandy Brubaker of the DMV.

Brubaker says the new law will get rid of the $145 reinstatement fee drivers had to pay in the past.

“How can you justify penalizing a person for a non-traffic related offense?” Williams asked.

Augusta County Commonwealth's Attorney, Tim Martin, said with the change he's still not sure how those cost will be paid.

"The mechanism by which we've gotten those fines and cost paid in the past has been through the threat and suspension of the drivers license or the actual suspension of the drivers license," Martin said.

If a license has expired, the normal costs apply to get a new one.

The Virginia DMV is sharing the following additional information:

Background
  • Effective July 1, 2019, Virginia law will change to prohibit courts from suspending someone’s driving privilege solely for failure to pay court fines and costs. This change does not address non-payment of tolls.
  • Also beginning July 1, anyone whose driving privilege has been suspended solely for failure to pay court fines and costs will have his/her driving privilege reinstated. These individuals will not owe a reinstatement fee.
  • The law change only affects a person’s ability to get their driver’s license back. It does not eliminate the requirement to pay the underlying court costs and fines.
What do customers need to do?
  • Make sure your mailing address is up-to-date by visiting dmvNOW.com.
  • DMV will be contacting individuals who currently live in Virginia and are suspended for failure to pay court fines and costs to advise them of their specific requirements to get their driver’s licenses.
  • The customers will go through the standard application process, including a new photo and vision screening.
  • There may be other requirements, as well, such as proof of permanent legal presence in the United States (i.e. birth certificate, U. S. Passport, legal permanent resident card) and/or testing, depending upon whether there is evidence the individual has ever held a license.
  • If there is evidence someone has held a license, no testing will be required unless required as a result of a driver’s license revocation.

Customers who still have their physical license and it is not expired and who have presented DMV with proof of their permanent legal presence in the United States (i.e. birth certificate, U. S. Passport, legal permanent resident card) will not need to take any action. Their license will be valid as of July 1.

Customers who do not have their physical license and/or the license is expired will have to obtain a replacement driver’s license or renew their license and will pay the usual driver’s license issue fee ($20 for a replacement or $32 for an eight-year renewal, an additional $10 for REAL ID). If the customer has not presented DMV with proof of their permanent legal presence in the United States (i.e. birth certificate, U. S. Passport, legal permanent resident card), proof of legal presence will be required.

Individuals who do not live in Virginia need not take any action if their driving privilege was suspended solely for failure to pay court fines and costs. Their Virginia suspensions for failure to pay court fines and costs will no longer be visible to other states’ driver licensing agencies on/after July 1.

Other
  • DMV offices will be extremely busy in the summer months and advises customers to expect longer than normal waits for service. Customers are encouraged to use alternative services (dmvNOW.com, mail, DMV Selects) for routine services.
  • Reinstatement fees previously paid will not be refunded.
  • If individuals’ driving privileges have been suspended or revoked for other reasons, in addition to failure to pay court fines and costs, they will need to meet any other court or DMV requirements to include payment of reinstatement fees to regain their driving privileges.
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