State appeals driver’s license reinstatement ruling

(WMC Action News 5)
Updated: Oct. 24, 2018 at 9:59 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - There’s a new legal hurdle to jump for those hoping to have their driver’s license reinstated.

Tennessee's attorney general is fighting a recent ruling that reinstates driver's licenses for those who can't afford to pay their traffic tickets, court costs, and fees.

Hundreds of thousands of Tennessee drivers, including many in the Memphis area, recently celebrated a huge legal victory.

They were looking forward to getting their licenses back, but the state just put the brakes on that.

"A lot of things are borne on the back of poor people,” said state representative Antonio Parkinson.

Parkinson is extremely disappointed the state is appealing a district court's ruling on license revocation.

"Here's another situation the state is willing to expend resources to keep pressure on poor people,” Parkinson said.

Last week, a federal judge ordered Tennessee to stop suspending driver's licenses for people who haven't paid their traffic tickets or fines.

The judge also told the state to reinstate licenses already suspended for that reason.

"This one impacts nearly 300,000 Tennesseans who’ve had their driver’s license suspended,” said Josh Spickler, executive director of Just City.

Just City and two other organizations filed the original lawsuit in this case to help people drowning in legal fees get their licenses and their lives back.

"It's like, you're not even able to take care of business,” said Paitrun Lott, whose license is suspended. “You're not able to just do what's right."

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security won't suspend any more licenses for failure to pay

However, the process of reinstating previously suspended licenses is now on hold until the judge hears the state's appeal.

Parkinson called it a waste of money.

"We need to stand by what the court says and let's move on to the next thing and make good use of taxpayer dollars,” Parkinson said. Tennessee's next governor may have a say in this issue, and the candidates vying for the job are divided.

Democrat Karl Dean says he would not appeal the judge's ruling.

Republican Bill Lee said he would listen to the concerns about it before deciding whether to appeal.

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