Lawsuit claims Va. drivers unfairly suspended

WASHINGTON — A newly filed federal lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says the agency unfairly issues suspensions to poor drivers.

The Legal Aid Justice Center, which filed the suit, said the fines and fees associated with traffic violations are often prohibitively expensive for poor drivers. In Virginia, drivers who fail to pay fines or court fees — or fail to pay them on time — can have their licenses suspended.

All told, nearly a million drivers have had their licenses suspended for nonpayment reasons, according to Virginia DMV statistics cited by the legal aid group.

While these suspensions are designed to get drivers to pay these fines, the group said they’re not all that effective. About 60 percent of orders for suspension stayed in place for more than a year, the legal aid group said.

The group also argued Virginia treats motorists who owe fees more harshly than reckless drivers. For example, a driver whose reckless driving kills another person would have his or her license suspended for up to a year. However, a driver who owes fees remains suspended indefinitely until those fees are paid.

The Virginia Attorney General’s office has not filed a response yet.

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