Advisers urge state lawmakers to find a statewide solution
Santa Fe – The Santa Fe City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance Wednesday to limit the widespread practice of suspending driver’s licenses when residents cannot afford to immediately pay a fine or fee.
Currently, thousands of New Mexicans cannot drive legally simply because they are trapped in a cycle of debt and their access to safe and legal transportation is limited. In a recent three-year period, New Mexico suspended the driver’s licenses of more than 215,000 New Mexicans because the person could not afford to pay their court debt or missed an appointment. you in court.
The new ordinance not eliminate suspensions and revocations based on dangerous driving (DUI, accumulated points, etc.) or relating to overdue child support. Nor will it limit the court’s discretion to impose penalties in criminal and traffic cases.
“This will help many hard-working families get back on the road and back to work,” Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth said. “This will boost Santa Fe’s overall economy and improve the quality of life for many Santafe residents and those in surrounding communities.”
Council members stressed that legislative reform is still needed at the state level to better address this issue. Over the past five years, 22 states — including Texas, Colorado and Arizona — have passed reforms to limit license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees.
“It’s imperative for New Mexico’s future that state lawmakers add New Mexico to this list when the legislature resumes next year,” Councilman Jamie Cassutt said. “Nobody benefits from the fact that we prevent parents from working and children from going to school and daycare.”
Statewide, 65% of voters oppose debt-based license suspensions — and in Santa Fe, 83% of voters oppose the practice. Majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans oppose debt-based license suspensions, as do men and women in every region of our state.
“When New Mexico revokes a license from a working father or mother, it condemns them to a life without the ability to support their family,” Councilwoman Renee Villarreal said. “Create alternatives to Debt-based driver’s license suspensions are an easy change to ensure people aren’t forced to choose between supporting their families or going into debt.
“Debt-based suspensions make it harder for new Mexicans to get to work, take care of their families and pay their debts,” said Monique Ault, New Mexico State Director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center. “It is encouraging to see elected officials working together to improve our economy by keeping New Mexican workers on the road and working.