CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates has passed and sent to the Senate a bill that would reverse a state policy of taking away a person’s drivers license for failure to pay court fines and costs.
HB 4958 passed 89-9 with broad bipartisan support Wednesday.
Currently, in instances of unpaid court fines and costs, the court is required to notify the state Division of Motor Vehicles to suspend the individual’s drivers license.
Supporters of changing the law argued that it unfairly penalizes individuals who may be struggle to pay their bills by making it even harder for them to get to and from work and carry on their daily lives.
“Without a drivers license, people can’t take their children to school, go to the grocery store, access health care or get to court,” said bill sponsor Delegate Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison.
Hamrick said six states have eliminated the license suspension provision and another dozen are currently considering doing the same.
Other bill supporters argued there are thousands of West Virginians who are currently driving without a license because of the suspension provision, but they should not be criminalized.
Delegate Joe Cantestraro, D-Marshall, who is also a prosecuting attorney, said he was “tired of making criminals out of people that would not normally be criminals, except that they owe debts to the State of West Virginia.”
If the bill becomes law, individuals who have lost their license for non-payment of court costs and fines prior to July 1, 2020, would be able to apply to have their license reinstated.