End Debt-Based Driver’s License Suspensions (Sign-On Letter)

Dear Washington State Legislators:

The following signatories ask that you support SB 5226 which would end debt-based driver’s license suspensions for moving violations in Washington state.

A driver can receive a moving violation for something as simple as failing to signal while making a turn. But for people who cannot afford to pay the ticket, this minor infraction (which is not a crime) can set off a chain of events that ends with a huge amount of debt, a criminal charge for Driving While License Suspended in the third degree (DWLS3), and possibly jail time.

Here is how it happens: A person without the ability to pay fines gets a moving violation while driving. They do not pay the fine or respond to the violation within the mandated timeframe, which is sometimes as brief as 15 days. The state then suspends their license a few weeks later. However, the person must drive to drop their kids off at school or go to a doctor’s appointment, so they drive anyway and get charged with DWLS3 — one of the most commonly charged crimes in Washington. DWLS3 laws disproportionately impact people of color and young adults.

SB 5226 would stop the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees for civil moving violations, ensuring that public safety is the focus of our state’s scarce criminal justice resources — not punishing people who are “driving while poor.” It also ensures that drivers keep their insurance, can get to work, and provide transportation for their families. Reforming these laws will increase fairness and cost-effectiveness without sacrificing public safety.

This legislation will hold people accountable and dangerous drivers will still have their licenses suspended. Drivers who accumulate multiple moving violations will still have to pay fines and their licenses will be suspended. The biggest threats to roadway safety are impaired driving, speeding, and distracted driving. Drivers who present risks to others will continue to face serious consequences, such as criminal charges for reckless driving or DUI.

The pandemic and economic recession make this legislation more important than ever. For low-wage workers and people living in poverty, losing a driver’s license could mean losing a job — an especially cruel blow during this difficult economic time. In rural areas, residents rely on cars to get to work. As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, cars provide a socially distant option even in places with widely available public transportation. This legislation would mean fewer barriers to getting and keeping a job, benefitting families and society.

2021 is the time to pass this legislation. Thanks to a growing national movement, a number of states have reformed their laws to suspending driver’s licenses for people who don’t have the ability to pay traffic fines, including California, Hawaii, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Virginia, and most recently, Michigan and New York.

SB 5226 will keep Washington drivers licensed and insured. Please pass this legislation in 2021.

Thank you,



Asia Pacific Cultural Center
Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Barrar Law
Case by Case Legal Services PS
Centro Latino
Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade
Columbia Legal Services
Community Passageways 
Community Visions
Cowlitz County Office of Public Defense
Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid
Democratic Party
Dove House Advocacy Services - Recovery Cafe
Downtown On the Go
Everett Law Association
Evergreen Treatment Services
Express Credit Union
Faith Action Network
Greater Redmond Transportation Management Association
Grimm Law Group, PLLC
Hepatitis Education Project
Indivisible Vashon Immigrant/Refugee Rights Group
Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness
Jefferson Associated Counsel
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
Jewish Family Services
Latino Community Fund
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
League of Women Voters of Washington
LELO (Legacy of Equality Leadership & Organizing)
National Association of Social Workers WA Chapter
National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) WA State
National Women's Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation
Northwest Carpenters Union
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Olympic Community Action Programs
Parallax Perspectives
Peace & Justice Action League
Progreso: Latino Progress
Public Defender Association
Quaker Voice on Washington Public Policy
Real Change
Seattle City Attorney's Office
SEIU 775
Snohomish County Public Defender Association
Sound Alliance
Spokane Community Against Racism
Spokane Immigrant Rights Coalition
Stand for Children
Statewide Poverty Action Network
The Civil Survival Project
The Defender Initiative
The Hawkins Law Group
The STAR Project
Thurston County Public Defense
Transit Riders Union
Transportation Choices Coalition
Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
WA Drivers Relicensing Taskforce
WA Immigrant Solidarity Network
Wallingford Indivisible
Washington ACTE
Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Washington Defender Association
Washington Low Income Housing Alliance
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility 
Washington State Budget & Policy Center
Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

By filling out the endorsement form, I confirm I have authority to sign on behalf of my organization.

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