If a driver causes an accident or gets caught driving under the influence, few would argue that the driver does not deserve some form of punishment. But can certain penalties go too far? They can drastically alter the driver’s life and sometimes leave little room for recovery. Even if it is a first-time offense and nothing too severe, a driver may not be able to get behind the wheel again after losing their license and failing to pay the court cost.
This debate over the severity of the punishments led to an important decision on Monday, July 2. A federal district judge in Tennessee declared that forcing drivers to pay a court cost to reobtain their license after a revocation is unconstitutional. This is the first time that a federal judge in the country has done this and it is bound to have a large effect on all drivers in the state and potentially the country as a whole.
What will happen?
Any driver that was unable to reobtain their license due to court costs can now reinstate it. The reports mention that between 2012 to 2016, over 140,000 people had revoked licenses because they could not pay their court costs, and only around seven percent were able to reinstate it in that period.
The main argument by the federal judge, as well as critics of the law, is that people who are not able to pay the court costs lose something that causes major ramifications in their lives. Without a license, most would be unable to attend their work, go to the grocery store or make doctor appointments.
What does it mean?
As this is the first time court costs for license reinstatement faces elimination, there has been discussion on how it could set a national precedent. Other states may realize there are numerous economic benefits that could come from more people being able to drive. On the other hand, some states may argue that the punishment should be severe for offenders. The bigger the penalty, the more likely that drivers will be more cautious once they get behind the wheel again.
People that suffer for years of being unable to drive due to court fees no longer have to sue to get their licenses back. However, it does not completely diminish the amount of lawsuits that can be made on the matter. Those who are not financially fit can still not regain their licenses for other reasons such as traffic tickets.
Regardless, all drivers should be more cautious with the large amount of convicted drunk drivers soon to return to the road. More cars means can mean more chances for crashes, and not all of these returning drivers have learned their lesson from the first time.