A driver’s license is essential to getting and keeping a job in Georgia. Despite this, thousands of Georgians have their license suspended every year for reasons unrelated to dangerous driving, making it difficult to maintain employment and support their families. To address this, Georgia Justice Project (GJP) partnered with community organizations and the business community to champion a new law (SB 10) that both reduces driver’s license suspensions and provides a better path for drivers to get licenses back after missing traffic court. SB 10 was signed into Georgia law earlier this year and went into effect July 1, 2022. Here is what you should know about this new law, and how it benefits everyday Georgians.
Why do driver’s licenses matter? According to the U.S. Census, nearly 80% of Georgians drive to work. Studies show almost half of people who lose their license lose their job. Before this new law, 105,000 driver’s licenses were suspended in Georgia annually solely for missing traffic court—not because of a new offense or dangerous driving. Suspensions for missing traffic court were automatic; a judge was powerless to stop it. There are many reasons why someone might miss their traffic court date—inability to take time off work, lack of transportation or childcare, being in the hospital, being incarcerated or deployed overseas, not receiving notification, etc. At a time when businesses are experiencing a shortage of workers, license suspensions hurt Georgia families, businesses, and the economy.
How does SB 10 benefit everyday Georgians? SB 10 replaces the old, automated license suspension process by giving judges power to decide both when to suspend and when to reinstate a license. This new law will help Georgians keep and regain their driver’s licenses so they can drive to work and support their families. SB 10 enables a judge to stop the suspension before it starts for any reason. This reform also provides an easier path to reinstatement for people whose license was suspended for missing traffic court. Drivers used to have to resolve their case and pay fines and fees before getting their license back; now, judges can reinstate a license at any time. Judges can also waive fees that prevented low-income drivers from getting their license back.
Later this year, GJP will announce our policy priorities for 2023. Stay tuned, and check out GJP.org/advocacy for more information.