Bill to halt license suspension could impact many Memphis drivers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you or someone you know has ever taken the risk of driving without a valid license, there could be changes on the way to provide relief.

Tennessee lawmakers have signed off on legislation that would prevent the state from revoking or suspending driver’s licenses over unpaid court costs.

Monique Jones is one of thousands in Shelby County who have a revoked or suspended license. She came to the criminal justice complex at 201 Poplar on Wednesday to sort out the latest with a speeding ticket she got a year ago.

She wasn’t able to pay the ticket at the time, and since then, her costs have piled up.

"I can’t make the reinstatement fees," she said. "The fees are ridiculous. It’s like $1,000 for a $200 ticket. It’s bad."

The bill states if the court finds someone has trouble affording any fees for driving-related offenses, the court must issue a restricted license until they can pay it off or until the court waives the fees.

“It’s pretty narrow in scope, in that it only relates to those who owe money for prior driving offenses, but hopefully it will be a step in the right direction,” Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said.

In fact, Weirich already made the decision not to prosecute people caught driving on a revoked license if the license was revoked because people didn’t pay their fees.

She says this becoming law would have an even bigger impact.

"The concern in the community is violent crime, blighted property, theft. Those things impact quality of life. Being able to free up resources to handle those matters is important to us every day,” Weirich said.

But she points out, it stops short of allowing people to keep their license if they’re behind on child support.

And Jones says the restricted license idea leaves a hole.

"What if you got to go to the grocery store, to a doctor appointment?" she asked.

Weirich says she thinks legislators could take this issue even farther but she’s waiting to see for now what happens in the future.

We contacted Gov. Bill Lee’s office to find out if he plans to sign this into law. We’re still waiting on a response.

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