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States does have authority to suspend scofflaws' licenses

  • 1 min to read

Driving is a privilege, not a right.

And those who want the privilege of driving in Washington must follow the law.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington sees it otherwise. It filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Licensing this week arguing the state’s practice of suspending drivers’ licenses when drivers fail to pay traffic fines unfairly hurts those who can’t afford to pay.

The ACLU argues in its complaint that the state’s licensing system unconstitutionally favors wealthier people, who can pay their tickets and keep their licenses, while stripping people with low incomes of their right to drive, trapping them with ballooning debt and making it more difficult for them to keep a job that could help them pay off their fines, according to The Associated Press.

“License suspensions for those unable to pay fines, fees, and default judgments for moving violations are not about public safety,” the complaint said.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this implies that the state can’t impose any fines or restrictions as a tool to ensure every person drives responsibly.

That’s nonsense.

If driving were a right, like voting, the ACLU would have a point.

Since driving is clearly a privilege — one must pass a test, agree to follow the law and pay a fee for a license — the ACLU is confused.

If the ACLU or any other organization wants to argue that the fines imposed are unreasonably high, that’s an entirely different matter.

The ACLU does claim the state’s system violates state constitutional rights to due process and equal protection and against excessive fines.

So, before going to court, perhaps the ACLU should lobby the Legislature to reduce fines.

The bottom line is that nobody has an unfettered right to drive in Washington state. We all must follow the rules, or we risk losing our drivers’ licenses.