Class action lawsuit filed over driver's license suspensions of low income population

A federal class action lawsuit has been filed challenging Tennessee's suspension of more than a quarter of a million driver's licenses of people, because they could not afford to pay traffic tickets.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys for the Civil Rights Corps, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Just City, and the law firm Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz.

The lawsuit claims the suspensions prevent Tennesseans from getting jobs, health care, child care, etc.

"The suspensions also raise profound racial justice concerns," the lawsuit claims, saying African-American drivers are four times more likely to lose their licenses for nonpayment of traffic tickets than white drivers.

The lawsuit was brought in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville against the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety, Rutherford and Wilson counties and their court clerks, and Mt. Juliet and Lebanon, Tennessee and their clerks.

In Shelby County, FOX13 learned 85 percent of people who have their licenses taken away are African American. If you are a black person, you are seven times more likely to have your license suspended.

Cedrick Price lives in Memphis and is a part of a shocking statistic. Price said, “I can't get my license back.”

He cannot afford to pay his speeding ticket, and according to information we received from Just City Memphis, failure to pay fines for suspended licenses affects far more African Americans.

Josh Spickler, Executive Director for Just City, said, “A large number of the suspensions of driver’s license is in the state have been of people who can't afford it and simply can't afford the reinstatement fees in the exorbitant court costs and fines that have been levied against them.”

According to Just City, between 2012 and 2016, black drivers were nearly four times more likely to have their license suspended across Tennessee.

Spickler said the numbers are even higher here. "It disproportionately affects people of color."
Spickler said, "This keeps people from working, keeps people from getting healthcare, keeps people from getting their kids to school."

Price said he feels the pain and is still currently trying to find the money to pay his hefty fines.
He also finds public transportation is his only option.