Monday, July 8, 2013

New law allows restricted driver’s license for unpaid traffic tickets

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA — Motorists who have lost their license because they haven't been able to pay off traffic fines can now get a restricted license.

A law that took effect Monday restores a system to allow motorists with suspended licenses to get a restricted license to drive to work, school, health care appointments or other important destinations while paying off their fines.

To take advantage of the law, applicants must pay a $25 nonrefundable fee and make written application to the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles. The restricted license is effective for one year.

Drivers with suspended licenses are eligible to apply for a restricted license only if their licenses were suspended over unpaid traffic offenses that were noncriminal or misdemeanors. Suspensions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not eligible for restricted licenses.

The restricted license law was originally passed in 2009 but had an automatic expiration last year.

That expiration "caused problems, sometimes major ones for working poor people," according to Kansas Legal Services.

The measure was pushed in the Legislature by state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau and state Rep. Gail Finney, both Democrats from Wichita.

Supporters of the bill said that people whose driver's licenses were suspended because they couldn't pay fines were sometimes caught up in a cycle of further penalties while being unable to lawfully drive to and from work.