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W@TC: Fee to Drive: How Poverty, Punishment, and Policy Shape the Lives of Suspended Motorists

Headshot of black GJE fellow, Adrienne Jones, within the John Hope Franklin Center logo comprised of colorful books in a circle. A QR code for the hybrid recording of the event is also present.
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Adrienne Jones
Wednesdays at the Center

Each year, tens of millions of individuals are assessed monetary sanctions - bnes, fees, and othercosts- stemming from their contact with the criminal legal system. While these sanctions are often characterized as race-neutral and less punitive than other forms of punishment, contemporary works find them to be harmful to those with limited ability to pay. Disproportionately these individuals are people of color. A growing body of literature on monetary sanctions demonstrates these practices often result in a series of negative, enduring consequences in the lives of individuals with limited ability to pay. One such consequence is restricted driving privileges. Currently, 33 states, including North Carolina, permit driver's license suspensions due to outstanding traffic debt. Therefore, this project seeks to examine how traffic stops, the most common form of criminal legal contact, and resulting debt-based driver's license suspensions shape the lived experiences of suspended motorists.

This project draws on data from 39 in-depth, semi-structured interviews from individuals with debt-based driver's license suspensions in Durham County, North Carolina. Participants in this study describe how their suspended driving privileges present barriers to employment outcomes, family functioning, and individual well-being. Further, participants pursue driver's license restoration as a strategy to mitigate their likelihood of experiencing negative outcomes. Data reveal the lack of cooperation between local courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles, and administrative hurdles like unexpected fees and additional paperwork prevent participants from obtaining their license.

This event will be hybrid. Registration is required to join via Zoom. Light refreshments will be provided.

Contact: Rhiannon See