Poverty is a common denominator among those caught in our criminal justice system, and the CARE Fund can help to eliminate small financial barriers to clearing one’s case or getting one’s needs met while incarcerated. We accept referrals from local public defense attorneys and are 100% funded by donations from the community. Please join us in helping to strengthen and empower our community as we press forward to assist the accused.
In Washington State, a driver’s license can be suspended indefinitely for failure to pay certain traffic fines. The suspension can remain until all fines and associated collection fees and interest are collected; this is designated as Driving With License Suspended-Third Degree (DWLS3).
Many who cannot afford to pay the fines are compelled to keep driving to earn a living. If they are stopped by law enforcement, they will be charged with DWLS3. This policy disproportionately affects poor people and contributes significantly to the cycle of poverty, unemployment and incarceration.
In 2015, about 39,000 people in Washington state were charged with DWLS3; this amounts to about 1/3 of all cases heard in District Court throughout the state.
From the Executive Summary of ACLU’s report, published in February 2017:
- DWLS III is excessive punishment. Resources should be focused on public safety issues, such as impaired driving.
- The impact of DWLS III is widespread. Since 1993, nearly one and a half million criminal charges for DWLS III have been filed, more than any other type of crime.
- The enforcement of DWLS III consumes massive amounts of taxpayer dollars that could be used to reduce real crime.
- DWLS III is unnecessary. Several states do not criminalize DWLS III. Many local jurisdictions in Washington rarely enforce the law. It was not a criminal offense in Washington state prior to 1993.
- DWLS III is unfairly applied and disproportionately impacts people of color.
- Enforcement of DWLS III does not improve public safety.
- Tinkering with DWLS III won’t fix its fundamental flaws.
- DWLS III should not be treated as a crime. Washington lawmakers should repeal the law making DWLS III a criminal offense. DWLS III could be treated as a civil offense and effective relicensing programs should be offered.