Nearly 7,000 Traffic Fines Forgiven

Governor Kate Brown today issued an order that remitted uncollected court fines and fees associated with certain traffic violation cases that resulted in debt-based driver’s license suspensions. This action creates a path for nearly 7,000 Oregonians to seek reinstatement of their suspended driver’s licenses through the DMV, and removes the associated collateral burdens that disproportionately impacted low-income Oregonians and people of color from a state statute that has since been rewritten.

In 2020, acknowledging that suspending driver’s licenses for nonpayment can set off a cascade of compounding harms impacting people’s lives and livelihoods, particularly for low-income Oregonians, Governor Brown signed into law House Bill 4210. While that legislation prohibited license suspensions for nonpayment of traffic fines moving forward, it left existing nonpayment-related license suspensions in place. Governor Brown’s action today granted these individuals a fresh start, removing a key financial barrier blocking many from being able to lawfully drive.

“The inability to pay a traffic fine should not deprive a person of the ability to lawfully drive to work, school, health care appointments, or other locations to meet their daily needs,” said Governor Brown. “We know that suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic fines is bad public policy — it is inequitable, ineffective, and makes it harder for low-income Oregonians to get ahead. My action today will help alleviate the burden of legacy driver’s license suspensions imposed under a statutory scheme that the legislature has since overhauled.”

Governor Brown’s remission order affects only those people who were sanctioned in traffic violation cases over two years ago, prior to the effective date of HB 4210. The order expressly excludes misdemeanor or felony traffic offense cases, and it does not forgive restitution and compensatory fines owed to victims. Beyond nonpayment-related sanctions, none of the affected individuals have suspended licenses due to public safety-related sanctions.

Approximately $1,800,000 was remitted from circuit court cases in Oregon. The total amount of unpaid fines and fees that was remitted from cases in Oregon municipal and justice courts is unknown because neither the DMV nor the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) has access to this information.

The vast majority of the fines and fees forgiven by the Governor’s order are considered uncollectible debt. According to OJD, about 84% of the liquidated debt on its books is uncollectible. Much of the debt forgiven by the Governor’s remission order is held by OJD. Their collections data show that most people who can afford to pay their violation fines do so right away, but for cases like those included in the Governor’s order, collections rates drop to roughly 10% in the second year of delinquency, and to 4% or lower in year three and beyond. Much of the debt forgiven by the Governor’s remission order has remained unpaid for three or more years and, as a result, is considered uncollectible.

More information about the remission order can be found here

Source: Oregon Governor's Office

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