ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
SB 1049 would make explicit that magisterial district courts can use community service as an alternative to payment of fines and costs for traffic offenses when a defendant’s driver’s license has been suspended as a result of nonpayment, or when a defendant is unable to pay all fines and costs in a single payment.
The stated goal of SB 1049 is to reduce the disproportionate burden that low-income Pennsylvanians face due to unaffordable traffic debt that leads to driver’s license suspension. Despite being well-intentioned, the bill fails to address the problem and would make the situation even worse for struggling Pennsylvanians who are trying to take their kids to school, drive to work, or get to medical appointments.
SB 1049 would condemn impoverished Pennsylvanians to a “choice” between either 50 hours of involuntary servitude for minor traffic offenses or trying to pay money they do not have and getting their driver’s licenses suspended. And because SB 1049 fails to include constitutionally required due process protections, its provisions would compound punishment on poor people for no discernible public safety reasons.
Check the bill's status here.