New lawsuit claims South Carolina driving rule penalizes poverty

VIDEO: New lawsuit claims South Carolina driving rule penalizes poverty

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other groups filed a lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

The ACLU claims the DMV has suspended over 190 thousand licenses because of unpaid traffic tickets, but they say the DMV has never determined whether those people could pay.

The group also claims the DMV automatically suspends licenses without giving people proper notice or chance for a hearing.

“This is a basic miscarriage of these core values that we have in fairness and equal treatment of rich and poor in our legal system,” said Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, the ACLU’s deputy director of its Racial Justice Program. “Those are embedded in the 14th amendment’s guarantee of due process and equal protection of the law and south Carolina’s system breaks that.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three South Carolinian women, Janice Carter, Emily Bellamy, and Linquista White who say their licenses were suspended because they could not afford to pay the tickets.

In Carter’s case, the complaint claims she discovered her license was suspended during a traffic stop, and she needed to pay over $1600 to get it back.

In order to get a hearing to explain why she couldn’t pay the ticket would have resulted in more fees, according to the lawsuit.

Carter is an Air Force veteran who says her license suspension affected her in other aspects of life.

In an ACLU video Carter said, “Right now, I’m eligible for a case worker, case management, position but I cannot take the job because of having a suspended driver’s license.”

The group wants the department to stop suspending licenses without giving drivers notice and try and find out whether or not they have the ability to pay these tickets.

The DMV said they don’t comment on pending litigation.

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