In Unprecedented Ruling, Federal Judge Strikes Down a State Law That Ties Court Fees to Driver's Licenses

July 9, 2018

It's unconstitutional for the state of Tennessee to continue revoking driver's licenses from people who can't pay court costs, a federal judge determined Monday.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger will have broad national and state ramifications, said Claudia Wilner, a senior attorney with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice in New York City who worked on the case.

Calling Trauger's ruling a "tour de force," Wilner said the order means more than 100,000 people in Tennessee can start the process today of regaining their driver's license.

"Practically speaking, this is going to be a huge benefit to the low-income people of Tennessee who are going to be able to drive to work, take their kids to school, go to the grocery store, visit the doctor, without fear of being arrested and prosecuted for driving without a license," Wilner said in an interview Tuesday.

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