The Alabama Legislature has worked across the aisle to pass an Act that will have a positive impact on citizens who have a common interest; a job and a drivers license. If you have these two things, and mix in the third, an Alabama court system, then you will be interested in this article. Read on.

The new law will provide that a license could be suspended for a person who fails to make an initial appearance or a court ordered review on two or more occasions.

A court may not suspend an individual’s driver license for failure to pay a fine, fee, or court cost as a result of a traffic violation unless the individual fails to make six or more of the required payments after the court’s order requiring the payment of fines, fees, or court costs.

Any individual whose driver license or driving privilege is suspended for failure to appear, his or her driver license or driving privilege shall be reinstated upon compliance with the notice to appear.

“Nearly 170,000 Alabamians who have lost their driver’s licenses, not because they are habitually reckless or dangerous drivers, but because they failed to pay a traffic ticket or show up to court or discuss an unpaid traffic ticket,” said Akeisha Anderson, advocacy and policy director for Alabama Arise. “That’s 95 percent of people with suspended license.”

Anderson said that the suspension of a driver’s license only adds to the problems for people in poverty, as is can prevent a person from gaining or maintaining employment.

“It’s silly, in my opinion, that we fund our state budget off of practices like this that harm low-income families,” Anderson said. “People can’t pay off their ticket, they lose their license and lose their job and have even more trouble paying off the ticket because, oftentimes, that job is the sole vehicle for being able to pay off the ticket.”

That doesn’t just hurt the individual either, Anderson said.

“When we think about the workforce shortage right now, it really harms our economy that everyday people can’t often get a job if they don’t have a driver’s license,” Anderson said.

Alabama Arise cites a UAB study that if everyone with a debt-based driver’s license suspension had kept their license—and their jobs—the state would have brought in an extra $277.8 million in income and gas tax revenue compared to the $1442 million in outstanding debt owed by the drivers.

A 2023 study showed that 31 percent of underemployed and unemployed people cited lack of transportation as the reason they were not reaching their potential.

The bill does not change Alabama’s system of adding points to licenses, leading to suspensions for people who demonstrate habitual reckless driving.

The bill would apply retroactively, providing an instant boost by immediately ending numerous suspensions.

This bill has other significant provisions. For example, CDL licenses cannot be suspended for failure to appear and the process to reinstate a suspended license has been simplified.

Senate Bill 154 passed last week and is on the way to Governor Ivey for her signature. The Bill was sponsored by Senator Merika Coleman (D) of Jefferson County and Senator Will Barfoot (R) of Elmore County. We will print the complete text of the bill after the Governor signs it.

Thanks to Alabama Arise and Alabama Appleseed for pushing meaningful legislation across the finish line.


Alabama Appleseed

UPDATE: Governor Ivey signed Act 2023-337 on June 1, 2023. You can find a copy of the complete act at this link.