WFSU News Team
Thu September 19, 2013
ACLU says Taking Drivers Licenses From Poor Criminals Is Discrimination
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says the state is discriminating against low-income people when it suspends the drivers’ licenses of convicted criminals who fail to pay court fees.
After being convicted for five drug-related felony charges, Reginald Foster has racked up more than 5-thousand dollars in court fees. So the Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicle Safety suspended his driver’s license. Now, he rides his bike 15 miles to get to work. But Foster says he really needs to be able to drive to do his job well.
“It’s a position with the International Long Shoreman’s Association, which ex-felons are truly blessed to have. And one of the reasons I need to drive is because there’s room to grow in the union, but without being able to operate equipment and machinery…you must have a driver’s license,” Foster said.
The ACLU says that’s discrimination against low-income individuals. And Foster’s attorney, Benjamin Stevenson, says he thinks Foster’s due process rights are being violated.
Meanwhile, Stetson University law professor James Fox says while he thinks the situation is unfair, the ACLU has a tough case to prove.
“This would be a situation where the ACLU would probably need to ask the court to extend its precedent a little bit. Certainly the principal is there.”
But Fox adds that’s how law is developed.