License Suspensions Used as Milwaukee Debt-Collecting Tool


Driver’s license suspensions have become one of Milwaukee’s most widely used debt-collection mechanisms for unpaid traffic fines, with municipal court issuing almost 48,000 suspensions for that reason in 2014, reports the Journal Sentinel. The goal of the suspensions, according to Milwaukee’s chief court administrator Sheldyn Himle, is to motivate drivers to pay for minor infractions such as expired plates or burned-out taillights. But it doesn’t work.

Milwaukee Municipal Court officials say they do not routinely track payment patterns on all outstanding debts, but the consensus of those close to the issue — backed up by historical records — is that a significant number of suspended drivers still don’t pay their fines. Many don’t have the money, or decide other expenses have to come first. Without valid driver’s licenses, they lose job opportunities and fall deeper into financial straits. Some even end up in jail — a cost to the community — for not paying their traffic fines. A disproportionate number of those affected are minorities.

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