Low-Income Drivers Sue California DMV for Illegally Suspending Licenses

dmv_logoSAN FRANCISCO, October 25, 2016 – A coalition of legal aid and civil rights organizations sued the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) this morning for illegally suspending the driver’s licenses of low-income Californians.

The suit was brought on behalf of drivers who have had their driver’s licenses suspended in violation of their statutory, due process, and equal protection rights. Each plaintiff was unable to pay the exorbitant fines associated with routine traffic tickets, and had his or her license suspended without an assessment of their ability to pay. This ongoing practice is common in California traffic courts, and is not prevented by amnesty policies that went into place last year. The DMV estimates that more than 600,000 Californians have suspended driver’s licenses for failure to pay or failure to appear.

The plaintiffs argue that though the DMV has the legal authority to suspend the licenses of people who have willfully failed to pay a traffic fine, poverty does not equate to “willfulness.” Traffic courts must give people a meaningful opportunity to prove their inability to pay, and if they have not done so, it is illegal for the DMV to carry out the court’s request for a license suspension.



Linda Kim, Bay Area Legal Aid, LKim@BayLegal.org, 510-250-5218

Noticiero Telemundo: “La suspensión de licencias agobia a latinos en California” (video)

SF Gate: “Suit: Suspending licenses of poor who can’t pay tickets illegal”

NBC Bay Area: “‘License Suspension Should Never be Punishment for Poverty:’ ACLU, Advocates Sue DMV”

TELEMUNDO Area de la Bahía: “DMV enfrenta demanda por suspensión de licencias”

48hills: “Suit: California has illegally suspended licenses of more than 600,000 drivers”

East Bay Times: “Lawsuit seeks to limit California driver license suspensions”

Sacramento Bee: “Lawsuit seeks to limit California driver license suspensions”

Celebrating our Pro Bono Heroes!

2016 Celebrate Pro Bono Week

Happy National Celebrate Pro Bono Week to all of our #ProBonoHeroes! Thanks for being our hero.


North Richmond Clean Slate Day

Attorney Jeffrey Landau of the Office of the Public Defender speaks with Tamika Gilbert about her record. In the background, attorney Raul Arroyo-Mendoza speaks with a client. Photo by Lauren Schwartzman.

What happens when a community gets together to help their neighbors move forward with their lives? Bay Area Legal Aid attorney Ann Surapruik explains how expungement makes a difference.

Bay Area Legal Aid attorneys and advocates were on hand as over 300 attended the Contra Costa County Office of the Public Defender’s first “Clean Slate Day” in North Richmond. Read more here.

Free PLI Training: Helping Students Harmed By Predatory Schools

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAPEAAAAJDlmNTg2OWQyLWM3NGUtNDdhNi1iYzM4LWUzZDgyNDdkNWQwMwOctober 5, 2016 – Did you know that student loan debt exceeds $1.2 trillion nationally? A significant number of students, disproportionately from low-income communities and communities of color, attended for-profit colleges such as the now-closed Corinthian, Marinello, and ITT Tech schools. They promised a path to a better future but instead delivered only crippling debt.

Learn about the rewarding pro bono work you can do to help these former students learn about their rights and options. Consumer law experts, including BayLegal attorney Juliana Fredman, will share with you the tools you need to help to make a difference in their lives.

Register here.

Lolita Fernandes Receives President’s Pro Bono Award

imgresSeptember 29, 2016 – Congratulations to Lolita Fernandes on receiving the The State Bar of California President’s Pro Bono Award! Thank you for your passionate commitment to pro bono and housing rights of BayLegal clients. You are our #ProBonoHero!

Stop Unfair Driver’s License Suspensions

huffpo-logoSeptember 21, 2016–Bay Area Legal Aid and our coalition partners continue to fight the system of fines, fees, and suspended licenses that push poor Californians deeper into poverty.

Read more about the unfair system of fees and fines here.

Learn more about BayLegal’s work here.

Profile on UC Hastings Alum Claire Johnson Raba

baylegalSeptember 21, 2016–BayLegal Attorneys and UC Hastings College of Law Instructors, Claire Johnson Raba and Juliana Fredman, are fighting unjust drivers license suspensions while also teaching law students how consumer protection attorneys help low-income people when a single traffic ticket turns into a living nightmare.

Click here for article.

Free PLI Training on Representing Pro Bono Clients in Administrative Hearings

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAPEAAAAJDlmNTg2OWQyLWM3NGUtNDdhNi1iYzM4LWUzZDgyNDdkNWQwMwSeptember 19, 2016 — Are you interested in practicing your advocacy skills while building a healthier community? For many legal aid clients, administrative hearings are a pivot point in their economic security. At this free training, seasoned faculty, including #BayLegal attorneys Steve Weiss and Adam Poe, will teach you how to protect the rights of low-income families.

Come Visit Us at Oakland Pride 2016

bala sf pride 2September 7, 2016 — Bay Area Legal Aid will be proudly representing this Sunday at the 2016 Oakland Pride. Come say hello and spin the wheel of justice!

Remembering Stonewall

safe_imageAugust 25, 2016 — As we continue to grieve the tragedy of Orlando and the ongoing physical and emotional violence against the LGBT community, we also soldier on to fight for equality.

Today, on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, let us take a moment to remember the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and honor the Stonewall National Monument, the newest national monument designation in the National Park Service.

BayLegal Teaches at UC Hastings College of Law

Juliana Kari and Claire at UC Hastings 2August 24, 2016 — This semester Bay Area Legal Aid attorneys — Juliana Fredman, Kari Rudd, and Claire Johnson Raba — are teaching the next generation of consumer law attorneys at UC Hastings College of Law. Cheers to these three consumer law experts!

Taking Money from Food Stamp Recipients

CalFresh is California's Food Stamps ProgramAugust 17, 2016 — Food stamp recipients, already on the poverty line, are being pushed further into desperation by California’s aggressive debt collection practices. Today, Bay Area Legal Aid filed suit to force the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to follow the law and stop demanding cash for old debts.

“The regulations only allow the state to go after food stamp recipients for debts up to three years old,” said Bay Area Legal Aid attorney Cynthia Chagolla. “CDSS is ignoring the law and demanding payment for debts twice that age.”

The plaintiffs are two East Bay residents who were inadvertently given too many food stamps (now called “CalFresh”) more than three years ago, which they used for food. Now CDSS wants to be paid back — in cash. The suit asks for a statewide order halting these improper collection efforts.

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