Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Louisiana Appleseed volunteers and partners evaluated the volume of laws that require a license to be suspended for non-moving violations.
Entergy New Orleans
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
19th Judicial District Court
Cafe Reconcile New Orleans
The First 72+
Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation
Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana
Louisiana Bar Foundation
Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles
Shreveport Financial Empowerment Center
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Appleseed employs an iceberg theory of analysis to help bridge gaps between lived experiences and policy-level solutions that will help disadvantaged families across the state. Like an iceberg, Appleseed’s theory of change recognizes only a small percentage of any given issue is immediately apparent, while majority of the patterns and structures that form the true foundation of the problem lie deep beneath the water’s surface. Positive policy change requires persistence and time. Through this lens, Louisiana Appleseed examined the practice of suspending drivers’ licenses in Louisiana.
Louisiana’s Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) has over 252,000 suspended drivers’ licenses on record. Of the 252,000 suspended licenses, nearly 80% of suspensions were related to non-moving violations (201,600). Some driving violations, such as driving under the influence and excessive speeding, represent a legitimate public safety risk and should lead to restrictions to individual’s driving privileges. However, it is less reasonable to revoke driving privileges based on violations wholly unrelated to maintaining the public’s safety.
Studies show that a valid driver’s license is a better predictor of economic stability than a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED). Indeed, employment in and of itself requires proof of identity, which is usually in the form of a state issued identification card or license. If a license is suspended, it is typical that the license is surrendered, rendering the individual without the means for gainful employment if unemployed.
Both Congress and many states across the country have spent considerable resources investigating alternatives to suspending drivers’ licenses. Appleseed and its volunteers compared Louisiana’s laws that allow a suspension of a drivers’ license to the same laws in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
The state-by-state comparison yielded surprising results. First, Louisiana has 78 laws that allow for the suspension of a driver’s license compared to the next leading state, Tennessee, which reflects 56 of the same laws that once violated can result in a suspended license. Moreover, of Louisiana’s 78 laws, 28 of them involve non-moving violations. Tennessee showed that 20 of the laws similarly resulted in a suspended driver’s license, and of Georgia’s 25 laws, 5 of them reflected a non-moving violation. Georgia was particularly interesting because it was among the safer states to drive as measured by driving deaths per capita, and it had among the fewest laws that suspend a driver’s license for both moving and non-moving violations.
The statutory construction of Louisiana’s laws that can result in a suspended license are inconsistent and provide little to no guidance on hardship license eligibility. Of both moving and non-moving violations, 38 violations are silent on whether a hardship license is available after a license has been suspended. This is compared to 9 offenses that are expressly prohibited and 31 offenses that are expressly permitted to a hardship license. Removing this omission from the 38 violations would benefit the public’s understanding of the law and the OMV’s field operations in executing on it. Appleseed’s next step was to examine how the laws that suspend licenses are recorded by the Office of Motor Vehicles. As noted above, 252,000 licenses were suspended in 2019 with over 80% (200,000) of suspensions for non-moving violations. We then grouped the non-moving violations into categories and analyzed the volume of non- moving license suspensions in each category.
We also present qualitative evaluations using case studies based on the categories of non-moving violations. We utilize these case studies to evaluate how courts interface with this issue, employer concerns and the financial difficulties imposed by ineffective license regulations. These studies demonstrate the real-world impact of the inefficient and infective status quo.
This report is the first to dive into Louisiana’s license suspension iceberg. There are numerous solutions offered here, such as streamlining laws on hardship licenses, or removing license suspensions for juvenile offenses. The reason for this is any legislative recommendation will undoubtedly carry a fiscal note. A fiscal note is likely to include the revenue lost to the OMV when an individual does not pay to have a license reinstated. The legislature should weigh the monetary costs of the current system and the potential benefits reform offers the general public. Of course, not all solutions must be legislatively enacted. There are also simple inefficiencies in the criminal/traffic system that could be remedied through smart use of technology. As Appleseed and our partners continue the dive into the underpinnings of drivers’ license suspensions, it is in these two areas that we will focus our resources.