BATON ROUGE, La. (KALB) - A new bill filed in the Louisiana House of Representatives by Rep. John Bagneris (D-Dist. 100), who represents Orleans Parish, would prohibit the suspension of a driver's license of a defendant who is financially unable to pay a criminal fine.
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House Bill 397 states that if the person is financially unable to pay the fine, "the judge of the court shall not order that the person's driver's license be surrendered for failure to pay such fine."
The present law states that a judge may order the license to be surrendered for a period of time not to exceed 180 days. If after 180 days the defendant has not paid the fine, the sheriff or official of the court designated to collect fines shall "forward the license tot he Department of Public Safety and Corrections." A 2017 amending of the law authorizes the surrender of the license only when the defendant is "able but has willfully refused to pay the fine." Those changes become effective on Aug. 1, 2019.
The proposed law retains the present law, including the 2017 change, but adds that "if the person against who the fine is levied is financially unable to pay the fine, the provisions of present law shall not apply and the judge of the court shall not order that the person's driver's license be surrendered for failure to pay such fine."
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice. A copy of the bill is attached to this page.