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Case challenging driver’s license suspensions dismissed

(AP) A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a Virginia law automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of people who can’t pay court costs and fines.

Judge Norman K. Moon said Monday that his court does not have jurisdiction over the matter. He did not make a judgment on the merits of the case.

“Virginia law leads state judges to automatically suspend a defendant’s driver’s license for nonpayment of court fees and fines, regardless of his ability to pay. That unflinching command may very well violate Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to due process and equal protection,” Moon wrote.

The judge said that such claims could be advanced in state court, or could be reconstituted such that a federal court would have jurisdiction.

The Legal Aid Justice Center filed the lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles on behalf of low-income drivers who lost their license for failing to pay court debts.

The lawsuit said the state’s failure to take into account people’s financial circumstances unfairly punishes the poor.

The Legal Aid Justice Center said in a statement that it “will not stop fighting until the automatic suspension law is repealed.”

Additional reporting by VLW.

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