Unpaid Traffic Debt Means DC Residents Can’t Renew Their Driver’s Licenses – Washington City Paper – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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Norris Harvey can’t work anymore because he can’t renew his driver’s license. Harvey can’t renew his driver’s license because he owes $2,795 in tickets and penalties to the D.C. government. 

Under D.C.’s current rules, residents can enter a payment plan if they owe $250 or more in parking and traffic tickets, and are able to pay the total debt within six months and at least 25 percent of the sum upfront. Harvey tried to pay off his debt to the D.C. government under a payment plan. But medical expenses associated with a heart attack he suffered made it impossible to meet the agreement. Residents cannot enter a new payment plan after failing to complete one.   

“I was in a hole and I couldn’t get out of it. I ended up losing the job. I couldn’t pay the payment plan, and now they tell me it’s a once in a lifetime situation,” says Harvey. “Well to me, you were the cause of me losing my job because you wouldn’t let me renew my driver’s license.”   

Harvey now lives off of $814 in monthly Social Security and disability checks. Tickets he accumulated between 2003 and 2005 mean he can no longer work as a loan officer for a mortgage company. These tickets also mean he cannot visit his grandchildren. 

“I could take them places. We could do things,” he says of having a driver’s license again. “And that’s why I can’t seem to have a life now. Because I love my grandchildren and want to be with them, but they live too far away.”

Harvey is among tens of thousands of D.C. residents who cannot renew their driver’s licenses just because they have more than $100 in parking and traffic tickets, according to a new report published by Tzedek DC, a legal group that helps people in debt, and the Venable law firm. A little-known D.C. law called the “Clean Hands Law” disqualifies residents from obtaining or renewing their driver’s licenses if they owe more than $100 to the D.C. government. Two lawmakers are trying to change the law, sayi

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