SANTA MONICA—Sue Himmelrich, City Councilwoman and attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty is looking to assist residents who have revoked driver’s licenses.
It is a problem 4.2 million—one in six drivers—Californians face, where a minor, nonviolent infraction can accumulate multiple fines that some are unable to pay off resulting in a suspended license.
“This is a Catch 22 that traps people in a cycle of poverty,” said State Senator Bob Hertzberg, for the Van Nuys region. According to a recent New Jersey study, 42 percent of drivers with suspended licenses lost their jobs, and of those, 45 percent could not find new employment. Eighty-eight percent of people with suspended licenses—even those with jobs—reported a loss of income. Without the means to pay all the fees incurred, it is sometimes impossible for people to get their driver’s license reinstated—and without their license, it is difficult to pay off debts.
Hertzberg—sponsored by Himmelrich’s Western Center on Law on Poverty—introduced State Senate Bill 405, which grants amnesty to drivers who have had their license suspended due to failure to appear in court or inability to pay fines or bills.
“I think it would be a benefit to all those at risk,” said Himmelrich. Many believe that residents from the City of Santa Monica are at risk. According to the US Census, 11 percent of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, and 15 percent is 65 years of age or older.
Himmelrich added, “We have a large percentage of the population that isn’t as affluent as it used to be. I think [SB 405] would be a benefit to them.”
SB 405 was unanimously passed at its first public review by the Senate Committee on Public Safety on April 28.