minor traffic fees and fines still cripple low-income people

One out of five residents in Durham, NC have a suspended or revoked driver's license, according to a new study from Wilson Center for Science and Justice

Most of North Carolina debt is low-level criminal cases from traffic cases and infractions.

  • 1 million: traffic stops conducted each year in North Carolina.

  • tens of billions of dollars: estimated total in the United States of court imposed fines and fees

  • Few states maintain any data on these fees

  • Over 650,000 people or 1 in 12: adults in North Carolina with unpaid criminal court debt

  • Unpaid court debt can lead indefinite suspension of driving privileges.

  • Over 1,225,000: people in NC with active suspensions for failure to comply with paying fees or appear in court

  • OR 1 in 7 driving-age people in the state of North Carolina have suspend drivers license for nondriving-related reasons alone.

  • Racial Disparities: Black and Latinx people are over-suspended

  • Income Disparities: “The more white people below poverty and Black people above poverty a county has, the more suspensions the county is likely to have.”

  • In people surveyed by the study, 28.5% said they being evicted due to their suspensions.

“Because the imposition of suspensions largely uses automatic processes, the now-massive suspension programs run with little oversight. Researchers have also found these policies offer little to no public benefit—and in fact, are counterproductive.”

Fines and fees imposed by the court in cases: If unable to pay a person is assigned a Failure to Comply.

  • “General Court of Justice” fee of $147.50

  • $5 fee for an arrest

  • $200 fee for an Failure to Appear in court

  • $10 fee for each day spent in jail

  • $600 crime lab fee

  • $600 additional fee for expert testimony

  • $50 fee is added to any unpaid fee after 40 days

“I was only going like 3 mph over the speed limit,” said a Durham, North Carolina resident. “The fine, though, was for a couple hundred dollars. I just couldn’t afford it. I have four kids.”

Read the whole study here

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