Foster v. Florida Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (DMV)
211,159 drivers had a suspended driver’s license as of January 1, 2013, for failure to pay court costs and fines (legal financial obligations or “LFOs”) imposed after a misdemeanor or felony conviction. In the majority of cases, the driver lacked the present ability to pay the LFOs. Thus, suspending a person’s driver’s license to compel payment was pointless—they did not have the money with a driver’s license and they lost opportunities to earn it without the license. Reginald Foster was one of these drivers.
Foster sued the DMV for suspending his driver’s license for failure to pay the LFOs without first considering whether he had the ability to pay them. Foster asserted the DMV’s practice violates basic fairness guaranteed by the Florida and U.S. Constitutions. Foster, like most of the other criminal defendants whose license was similarly suspended, simply lacked the ability to pay the LFOs and lost his driver’s license as a consequence. Moreover, the DMV’s suspension is counterproductive, as suspending a driver’s license reduces the person’s job opportunities and earning potential and thus his ability to pay the LFOs. Suspending a driver’s license for failure to pay LFOs diminishes highway safety by diluting enforcement against dangerous, unlicensed drivers; is an ineffective collection tool for outstanding LFOs, as the state collects a mere 7% of these LFOs; and obstructs individuals’ ability to earn the money to pay the LFOs because not having a driver’s license diminishes earning potential and job prospects.
The court sided with the DMV by granting its motion for summary judgment. However, Foster moved the court for a rehearing. This motion remains pending.
Foster’s Motion for Summary Judgment (01/21/14)
Order Granting DMV’s Motion for Summary Judgment (03/05/14)
Foster’s Motion for Rehearing (03/21/14)