Brief of Amici Curiae of members of the Free to Drive Coalition in support of Appellants Petition for Rehearing En Banc.
Millions of people in the United States have had their driver’s licenses suspended, revoked, or not renewed, not for unsafe driving, but for unpaid fines and fees. Most of these people are poor; they are disproportionately people of color.
Losing the right to drive has severe consequences: Most people in the United States rely on cars to travel to work, school, childcare, medical care, grocery stores, places of worship, and other essential activities. When their licenses are suspended, they often have no realistic choice but to continue to drive—risking more fines and fees, arrest, incarceration, and the adverse consequences that follow.
The panel’s decision ignores the necessity of driving and the grave consequences that follow from license suspension for inability to pay. It also flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s command that a person must not be “punish[ed] . . . for his poverty.” Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660, 671 (1983).
This case has stark implications for not only the millions of people who are prohibited from driving because of outstanding debt, but also the millions more subject to other liberty-restricting government actions such as pretrial supervision, diversion, and probation—to which, contrary to the panel’s decision, federal courts around the country have applied Bearden’s “careful inquiry.”
For these reasons, amici respectfully urge rehearing en banc.