Nearly 300,000 TN drivers eligible for license reinstatement

Nearly 300,000 TN drivers eligible for license reinstatement

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A statewide class action lawsuit will make it easier for people people with suspended Driver’s Licenses to get them reinstated.

Tuesday, a federal judge granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction in the case of Robinson v. Purkey.

This means nearly 300,000 people whose licenses were suspended because they could not afford to pay traffic debt can request to have their driver licenses reinstated.

Traffic debts include fines, fees and taxes that arise from traffic violations.

The court ordered Tennessee to halt all suspensions of driver's licenses for nonpayment, unless and until it can be determined that each individual has the ability to pay.

“This is an incredible victory for poor Tennesseans who had their licenses taken away not because they were dangerous drivers, but because they couldn’t pay. With this ruling, people will be able to go to work, see their families and friends, get to the grocery store and the doctor’s office, and do all of the things that many of us take for granted and that give life meaning,” said Tara Mikkilineni, Attorney at Civil Rights Corps.

Civil Rights Corps is among many other agencies to file the statewide class action lawsuit, including Just City, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, and the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz.

The judge's ruling is a major victory for the groups that filed this lawsuit, including Just City here in Memphis.

"This one impacts nearly 300,000 Tennesseans who've had their driver’s license suspended,” said Josh Spickler, executive director of Just City.

Spickler said his group was determined to fight a law that he says perpetuates a vicious and unfair cycle of poor people losing their licenses because of costly traffic fines.

"They say, ‘I wasn't able to pay the ticket, and I had to work and didn't go to court,’ and a $75 ticket turns into a $200 judgement,” Spickler said. “Do you pay rent the next month? Or do you pay the judgement? And it goes from there."

The lawsuit was filed last year by Just City, the Civil Rights Corp and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

The state of Tennessee can appeal the judge's ruling. It all depends who the next governor is:

Both candidates were asked about the issue during the Memphis gubernatorial debate on Oct. 2 "You know...I will...I will...look hard at the concerns raised by that ruling,” said Republican candidate Bill Lee.

"As Governor, I would respectfully ask the Attorney General not to appeal this...this is a terrible law,” said Democratic candidate Karl Dean.

People with suspended licenses should contact the Tennessee Department of Safety to request reinstatement.

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