Forty-four states and the District of Columbia suspend, revoke or refuse to renew driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic, toll, misdemeanor and felony fines and fees, resulting in more than 11 million debt-related suspensions nationwide. These suspensions not only prevent people from earning the money they need to pay their “court debt,” but also undercut their ability to support themselves, their families and the community.
Driver’s license suspensions make life almost impossible. Since 86% of Americans drive to work and many jobs require a driver’s license, suspensions often cost people their jobs. Without a driver’s license, people can’t take their children to school, get to the grocery store, or even get the healthcare they need for themselves and their families. And, because 83% of Americans report driving a car multiple times a week, many continue driving. When they do, they risk a criminal conviction, more fines and fees and incarceration.
Perversely, driver’s license suspensions often undercut economic growth and undermine public safety. People who can’t work or who lose income because their licenses are suspended have less money to spend and contribute to the economy. And the time spent by law enforcement stopping, citing and arresting people for driving on a suspended license could be more productively used fighting serious crime.
Recognizing how ineffective suspensions are, policymakers are taking action. In the past two years, Montana, Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, California, Idaho, Maine, and the District of Columbia have enacted legislative reforms to tackle debt-based suspension.
To accelerate reform nationwide, more than 100 ideologically diverse organizations joined forces in September 2019 to launch the Free to Drive campaign. This national campaign is bringing together legal, policy, advocacy, grassroots, and research organizations committed to the principle that restrictions on driving privileges should only be used for dangerous driving, and not to coerce debt payment or to punish people who miss a court appearance.
Steering Committee Members
American Civil Liberties Union
The ACLU is a litigation and advocacy organization that has been defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States for almost 100 years.
Civil Rights Corps
Civil Rights Corps are leaders in landmark litigation and high-impact advocacy that empowers communities to change the unjust legal system.
Fines and Fees Justice Center
The Fines and Fees Justice Center is a national advocacy organization working to eliminate criminal legal fees and reform the imposition and collection of fines.
Food. Shelter. Clothing. Transportation. Koch Industries creates life’s basic necessities, while innovating ways to make them even better. Based in Wichita, Kansas, Koch Industries is one of the largest private companies in America. Koch companies employ nearly 130,000 people worldwide, with about 67,000 of those in the U.S.
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.
Right on Crime
Right on Crime is a national campaign of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in partnership with the American Conservative Union Foundation and Prison Fellowship, to support conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering taxpayer costs.
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality, and specifically challenges the ways in which private and public systems doubly punish the poor and create a two-tiered system of justice based on wealth.
Texas Appleseed promotes social and economic justice for all Texans by leveraging the skills and resources of volunteer lawyers and other professionals to identify practical solutions to systemic problems.
Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.
ACLU of Colorado
ACLU of Illinois
ACLU of New Hampshire
ACLU of Oklahoma
ACLU of Oregon
ACLU of Tennessee
ACLU of Virginia
ACLU of Washington
Advocates for Basic Legal Equity, Inc.
African American Health Disparities Task Force
American Legislative Exchange Council
Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
The Bail Project
Bay Area Legal Aid
Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic
Brennan Center for Justice
The Bronx Defenders
Bronx Freedom Fund
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
Center for American Progress
Center for Civil Justice
Center for Employment Opportunities
Chicago Jobs Council
City of Atlanta Office of the Public Defender
Columbia Legal Services
Community Justice Exchange
Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School
Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation
Delaware Center for Justice
East Bay Community Law Center
Equal Justice Under Law
The First 72+
Georgia Justice Project
Health Equity Action Team
Human Rights Defense Center
Institute for Justice
The Justice Collaborative
Juvenile Law Center
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights – San Francisco
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Legal Aid Columbus
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Legal Services of Northern California
The Legal Aid Society
Minnesota Asset Building Coalition
Monroe County Public Defender’s Office
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Center for Access to Justice
National Center for Youth Law
National Consumer Law Center
National Juvenile Defender Center
National Legal Aid & Defender Association
National LGBTQ Task Force
National WIC Association
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
Ohio Poverty Law Center
Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform
Oregon Law Center
Prisoners with Children
Public Defender Association
Responsible Business Initiative for Justice
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Southeastern Ohio Legal Services
Southern Poverty Law Center
Southerners on New Ground
Still She Rises
Texas Civil Rights Project
Texas Fair Defense Project
Texas Legal Services Center
Texas Public Policy Foundation
Volunteer Legal Services Project
Washington Defender Association
Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers