New Michigan law aimed at helping 70K+ residents get licenses back, break free of ‘impossible’ cycle

Posted at 3:34 PM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 18:41:42-04

(WXYZ) — In 2018 alone, the State of Michigan issued more than 350,000 license suspensions for failure to pay fees or show up in court.

It doesn’t stop people from driving. It leads to thousands of arrests.

Today a new law goes into effect that could help 73,000 people who lost their licenses for things that have nothing to do with their ability to safely drive such as not being able to pay for car insurance. They are going to have a chance to get their drivers license reinstated. But some say more still needs to be done.

"I’m actually a chef during the day," said Chaevon Goodspeed.

Goodspeed is proud to be an essential worker cooking healthy meals at a metro-Detroit assisted living home.

It is a job she found after the pandemic left her without work. As she worked to get back on her feet, she got pulled over and ticketed for not having proof of insurance.

"This is a misdemeanor. They did make me a criminal," said Goodspeed.

She says she wants to pay for insurance. But there is a problem. I listened as she got a quote on the phone. It was $4,250. The state has ordered her to get a 6 month policy when she can’t afford one month.

She has a relatively clean driving record. She lives in Detroit, a city with high insurance rates, even after reforms that promised savings. She drives a Dodge Journey.

In the past if she failed to pay the fine or a court ordered it, she could have also had a suspended license.

Now a new law goes into effect today protects her from the suspended license.

"The state has routinely suspended the licenses of more than 350,000 drivers every year for non-driving related offenses," said attorney David Christensen.

Christensen says for example, in the past you could have your driver's license suspended for failure to appear in court and unpaid tickets. To try to pay for these problems, people find themselves still driving to work.

"And then they get a ticket for driving on a suspended driver's license. The fines run into the tens of thousands of dollars and it creates a cycle that it is impossible to get out of," he said.

The Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration recommended this change in the law saying it would help change the fact that, as this graph from the Pew Charitable Trusts found, even as violent crime in Michigan decreased, incarcerations increased.

Source: Pew

Take a look at this, too. The Pew Charitable Trusts found that driving without a valid license was the most common charge at jail admission for Black residents in Michigan.

Source: Pew

"It is heartbreaking that we have to do through this," said Goodspeed.

Goodspeed says she is speaking out because while the law protecting her from losing her license is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done.

She says she shouldn’t get a misdemeanor because she sincerely cannot afford more than $700 a month in insurance, because she says her city is discriminated against, turning being poor into a crime.

"When I lived in Monroe, Michigan, my insurance was $140 a month," she said.

Christensen says, "they are basically telling the citizens of Detroit that they can’t drive."

According to the state's website, here are the violations that are covered by the change in the law:

The law will impact driver licenses suspended due to failing to comply with judgment (FCJ), such as failing to pay a ticket, or failing to appear in court (FAC) for the following violations:

  • Open Intoxicants in Vehicle
  • Open Intoxicants in Vehicle (Passenger)
  • Person Under 21 Transport/Possess in Vehicle
  • Person Under 21 Transport/Possess in Vehicle (Passenger)
  • MIP (Person Under 21 Purchase/Consume/Possess Liquor)
  • Failure to Comply with Civil Infraction
  • Person Under 21 Used Fraudulent ID to Purchase Liquor
  • Sold/Furnished Alcoholic Liquor to a Person Under 21
  • MIP (Person Under 21 Purchase/Consume/Possess Liquor)
  • Felonious Driving
  • Controlled Substance
  • False Report or Threat of Bomb/Harmful Device (School)
  • Holds placed on licenses for unpaid parking tickets will also be lifted

For more information, click here.