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DMV barred from suspending licenses for failure to pay fines

(AP) A federal judge has granted an injunction to stop Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles from enforcing a law requiring automatic license suspensions for failure to pay court fines.

U.S. District Judge Norman Moon ordered DMV Commissioner Rick Holcomb to remove suspensions on three plaintiffs’ licenses and $145 penalties to reinstate their driving privileges. A bid for class certification remains pending.

“While the Court recognizes the Commonwealth’s interest in ensuring the collection of court fines and costs, these interests are not furthered by a license suspension scheme that neither considers an individual’s ability to pay nor provides him with an opportunity to be heard on the matter,” Moon wrote.

Moon’s ruling came Dec. 21, three days after Gov. Ralph Northam criticized the agency’s enforcement policy. Legislation to repeal the statute allowing suspension of driver’s licenses for refusal to pay court fines and fees is up for consideration at the 2019 General Assembly.

Angel Ciolfi is director of the Legal Aid Justice Center, which joined a law firm in contesting the matter. She described the ruling as a “victory for the Constitution and for common sense.”

Attorney General Mark Herring’s spokesman said his office would “take the time needed to consider the judge’s opinion” before deciding how to proceed.

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