Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West announced that his office has relieved “court indebtedness” – a fee waiver of fines – for over 7,000 people, paving the way for them to have their revoked driver’s licenses restored.
West said that most of the fines were for minor traffic offenses or expired registrations, and once they went unpaid, their licenses were suspended or revoked. Many of the offenses were tied to financial hardship in the first place, making repayment much more unlikely anyway.
“My office is committed to helping those individuals who might have made mistakes in their past but have now shown a determination to remain law abiding citizens,” West said. “We do not want economic barriers to continue to cause these individuals to suffer the collateral consequences, in this case license revocation, of their conviction when they have otherwise done their sentence.
“In the case of minor unpaid traffic offenses where someone admitted they were guilty, financial hardship should not be an obstacle to them being able to get their driver’s license and so that they can maintain employment, feed their family, and be a functioning member of our community.”
The Clerk of Court’s office has individually marked all of the over 7,000 cases as cleared with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. Chief District Court Judge Toni S. King said she hopes this measure will help restore equity to many members of the community.
“A large portion of our population are driving on a suspended license and without insurance on their vehicles due to their inability to satisfy past court fees,” King said. “The debt relief project will alleviate some of those financial barriers and allow individuals to correct these issues by becoming lawful insured drivers, which further benefits the community by boosting employability.”
The D.A. said that anybody with offenses like driving while impaired, speeding while feeling arrest, hit and run, or accidents with injuries, were not eligible for the Cumberland County fee waiver program. In order to be eligible, the D.A. said the licenses had to have been suspended for at least five years.
“Justice demands that while my office prosecutes those individuals who commit crimes, even traffic offenses, that we also assist those individuals who have done their sentences,” West said. “My office does this with some of our other projects such as our Expungement Clinic. In the case of minor unpaid traffic offenses where someone admitted they were guilty, financial hardship should not be an obstacle to them being able to get their driver’s license and so that they can maintain employment, feed their family, and be a functioning member of our community.”