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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 22, 2020 01:08 PM
From: Senator Patrick J. Stefano and Sen. Jay Costa
To: All Senate members
Subject: Community Service Alternative to Satisfy Fines and Fees
In the near future, we plan to re-introduce legislation that would provide alternative mechanisms for individuals to retain their driver’s license in cases where they are financially unable to pay fines and fees imposed for routine traffic violations. The alternative arrangements will include community service.
According to The Buhl Foundation’s analysis Driver’s License Suspensions and the Impact on Young People in Pennsylvania, among young drivers ages 16-24 years old, failure to pay fines and fees and failure to appear are the most common reason for license suspensions. In the period between 2014 and 2017, 172,006 young people in Pennsylvania received driver’s license suspensions. Of these, 124,650 suspensions given were of an indefinite length. Under Section 1533 of Title 75, license suspension for failure to pay a fine is indefinite; until fines associated with the underlying citation are paid, a person has no recourse for reinstating their driving privileges.
Many drivers, especially young and low-income drivers, are overwhelmingly burdened by this provision. It creates major barriers to pursuing employment and educational opportunities, as well as burdens their ability to access healthcare and other necessary services, essentially creating a debtor’s prison. As highlighted in the Buhl report, license suspension exacerbates “the vicious cycle of needing a license to get to a job but needing a job to pay the costs associated with getting a license or paying the fines resulting from driving without a license.” The analysis can be accessed in the attachment below.
There is clear, bipartisan interest in curtailing license suspension as a form of punishment, evidenced by the passage of Act 95 of 2018. With Act 95, the General Assembly recognized the disadvantage young individuals face when driving privileges are suspended, particularly with regards to entering the workforce. Our policy also recognizes this disadvantage.
Specifically, it would allow a magisterial district judge to determine at any time that if someone, regardless of age, would be financially unable to bear the costs of fines and fees associated with their traffic offense, the judge is able to assign community service as a payment alternative to license suspension. It would also allow those who currently have suspended licenses due to violations of driving without a license, failure to appear, or failure to pay fines the ability to be provided this alternative, including an opportunity to receive a provisional license pending the satisfaction of their community service alternative program hours.
This legislation was formerly Senate Bill 1048 from last session and was co-sponsored by Senators Bartolotta, Blake, Brewster, Browne, Collett, Fontana, Hughes, Kearney, Killion, Schwank, Tartaglione, and Yudichak.
Please join us in addressing the inequity of unending license suspensions based merely on an individual’s inability to pay.
If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact Jake Gery in my office at jgery@pasen.gov, or Sally Keaveney in Senator Costa’s office at Sally.Keaveney@pasenate.com.

View Attachment

Introduced as SB1049