The Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration identified the suspension of driver’s licenses for reasons that have nothing to do with unsafe driving as one of the major drivers in Michigan’s jail growth over the past few decades.
In 2018, nearly 358,000 people lost their driver’s license for reasons that had nothing to do with unsafe driving. They weren’t caught driving drunk, weaving in and out of traffic or speeding down the highway — instead, nearly 358,000 Michiganders lost the legal right to drive a car because they failed to appear in court or to pay a legal fine or fee. While the right to drive disappeared, the need to get to work or to get their kids to school did not, leading many of them to risk driving without a license because most places in Michigan have few public transportation options. If caught, those drivers could incur further charges and more time in jail or prison.
A driver’s license indicates a person has the skills and knowledge necessary to drive safely. Driver’s licenses are issued based on those criteria, with applicants tested on their knowledge of traffic laws, their vision and their demonstrated ability to handle a vehicle safely. License suspensions that have nothing to do with those criteria do not protect public safety, and instead put hurdles between people and their ability to earn a living and provide for their families.
On Friday, June 19, Safe & Just Michigan hosted a webinar discussing the task force’s plan to stop the suspension of driver’s license for only offenses related to driving safety. Safe & Just Michigan Executive Director John. S. Cooper moderated the discussion, and he was joined by task force bill sponsor Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian); Mackinac Center for Public Policy Senior Strategist for State Affairs David Guenthner; Geoffrey Leonard, Detroit Justice Center Staff Attorney for Legal Services and Advocacy; and Kristine Longstreet, Supervising Attorney for the Neighborhood Defender Service in Detroit.
Issues discussed include:
- The many ways a driver’s license can be suspended that do not involve unsafe driving.
- The process the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration went through to gather the information and data needed to make their recommendations.
- Stories of people who have had their driver’s license suspended, and the negative consequences they experienced.
- The negative impact on people’s lives from spending even just one night in jail.
- The bills recently introduced to the Legislature to address these issues.
- How the recommendations made by the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration could alleviate concerns about Covid-19 in jails.
You can watch the entire conversation below:
RESOURCES FOR INFORMATION MADE AVAILABLE IN THE CHAT BOX:
- Driver’s License Suspension Reform. Reason Foundation (2018).
- Highway Robbery. Detroit Justice Center (2020)
Bills Introduced to Address Driver’s License Revocations
- HB 5846 (Rep. Kahle) eliminates license suspension for unrelated to safe driving.
- HB 5847 (Rep. Luke Meerman) eliminates license suspension for selling alcohol to minors and for minors who purchase alcohol (tie-barred).
- HB 5848 (Rep. Donna Lasinski) updates to insurance code to adhere to changes made (tie-barred).
- HB 5849 (Rep. Mike Mueller) updates judicature to adhere to changes made (tie-barred).
- HB 5850 (Rep. Rebekkah Warren) eliminates license suspension for the failure to pay child support (tie-barred).
- HB 5851 (Rep. Tenisha Yancey) eliminates license suspensions for convictions of drug offenses, except when a motor vehicle is used in committing the offense.
- HB 5852 (Rep. Lori Stone) updates criminal procedure to adhere to changes made (tie-barred).