A Disproportionate Share of Blacks and Latinos Lose Their Driver’s Licenses Because of Unpaid Tickets, Study Finds
Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times, April 11, 2016
African Americans and Latinos in California are more likely than others to lose their driver’s licenses because of unpaid tickets and then to be arrested for driving with suspended licenses, according to a report released Monday.
The report, by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, examined U.S. Census Bureau data, records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and information from 15 police and sheriff’s departments in the state to document by race the impact of unpaid traffic fines.
“Individuals who cannot afford to pay an infraction citation are being arrested, jailed and prosecuted, and are losing their licenses and their livelihoods,” the report said. “The communities impacted by these policies are disproportionately communities of color.”
Black drivers were found to be arrested at higher rates than whites for driving with licenses suspended because of unpaid tickets, the report said. The highest suspension rates in 2014 were found in poor neighborhoods with large percentages of black and Latino residents.
In Los Angeles County, black people make up 9.2% of the population but accounted for 33% of those arrested for driving with a suspended license from September 2013 to September 2015, the report said.
Whites represent 26.8% the county but accounted for only 14.8% of those arrested at that time for driving with a suspended license. During that time, 85% of 20,000 people arrested by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for driving with suspended licenses were black and Latino, according to the report.
In San Francisco, 5.8% of the population is black, but 48.7% of those arrested for traffic warrants in 2014 and 2015 were African American. Whites make up 41.2% of the city’s population but accounted for only 22.7% of the arrests, according to the lawyers’ group.
On Tuesday, a state Senate committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on a bill that would prevent the DMV from suspending licenses because of an inability to pay or failure to show up in court to contest tickets.