The Issue

Driver’s license suspensions were originally used to promote the goal of highway safety, and related to offenses such as driving under the influence, reckless driving, repeated speeding tickets, and other driving-related offenses. More recently, suspension began to be used, not as a safety measure, but as a fundraising tactic. Suspensions were issued for nonpayment of fees, fines, and court costs related to violations, that had nothing to do with highway safety or even driving.

Florida, like many other states, now uses license suspensions as a coercive means of collecting fines and fees. Millions of suspension notices are sent out every year in Florida. Florida law allows for the suspension of a driver’s license for failure to pay court costs and fines on criminal cases; however, 30 counties in Florida have been issuing license suspensions for unpaid court fees in noncriminal, ordinance violations. Our organizations, Southern Legal Counsel and the ACLU of Florida, are working to fix that.

The Cummings Case

In 2019, Anthony Cummings was found guilty of violating a local ordinance that prohibited sleeping outside. State of Florida v. Cummings, No. 17MM001089 (Fla. 5th Cir. (Marion Cnty.)). The court assessed court fees and fines, which Mr. Cummings could not afford. When he failed to pay the fines and fees, the clerk suspended his driver’s license. After he challenged this practice, the court held that several criminal court fees and costs were not authorized in ordinance violation cases and ordered they be removed from the judgment. The court also held that his license should not have been suspended, because the Clerk of Court did not have the authority to do so for failure to pay fees associated with a municipal ordinance violation.

After this case, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (“FLDHSMV”) recognized it may not be lawful to suspend a driver’s license for failure to pay fines and fees arising from a municipal or county ordinance violation. It took action. The DHSMV identified over 16,000 potentially improper driver’s license suspensions and lifted over 13,500 of these suspensions, but the drivers were not notified. This website will help drivers learn if they had a suspension lifted as a result of the above.

Most counties in Florida have agreed to stop issuing license suspensions for failure to pay court fees and fines on ordinance violations cases. A few counties, including Escambia, Lake, Manatee, Santa Rosa, and Sarasota, continue to issue these suspensions. Our organizations, Southern Legal Counsel and the ACLU of Florida, have filed a lawsuit in Sarasota County seeking to stop additional suspensions from being issued.

If you believe you have a driver’s license suspension that may have been lifted as a result of this case, check your Florida Driver’s License Status.

If you believe your suspension should have been lifted, but it is not showing up as having been lifted, please contact Southern Legal Counsel through our Request Assistance form.