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House votes to ease traffic fine burden for poor

Published on March 13, 2013,

March 13, 2013

In a largely bipartisan vote, lawmakers decided to make it less likely people will lose their drivers licenses over the inability to pay a traffic fine.

State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland
By Tom James
House lawmakers did the kind of thing Tuesday that politicians like to talk about in their speeches: They reached across the aisle (mostly) to move a bill making life easier on the poor while cutting state workloads.

The bill, HB 1601, proposes requiring Washington courts to offer a payment plan to people who are too poor to pay traffic fines all at once, with the aim of keeping minor offenders out of criminal court. Of the 98 legislators in the House, 73 voted in favor of the measure.

The bill’s sponsor, Kirkland Democratic Rep. Roger Goodman, said of those the bill aims to help: “They’re not habitual traffic offenders, they weren’t driving impaired, they just weren’t able to pay the fines.”

Poor people, Goodman said, risk falling into a legal trap after even one traffic ticket. Now when they aren’t able to pay, Goodman said, their licenses are suspended.

“Then the downward spiral begins,” Goodman said, when those same people have to choose between not driving and keeping their jobs. Those who choose to drive to work despite having suspended licenses are then often caught and arrested at some point.

By creating a payment plan, Goodman said, the bill would keep those minor offenders out of the criminal system and save criminal justice resources.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it must work its way through committees before any final vote.


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