The Gist

There’s less chance Georgians, and some visitors, may lose their driver’s licenses for failing to pay tickets for minor traffic infractions under a new law that gives judges more leeway in suspending licenses.

What’s Happening

Around 105,000 drivers have their licenses suspended each year in Georgia for failing to pay traffic fines within three months, according to the nonprofit Georgia Justice Project. That could happen for minor speeding violations, a broken taillight or not coming to a full stop at a stop sign.

State law requires drivers who don’t pay fines for traffic violations to face a “failure to appear in court” violation and automatically have their license suspended until the fine is paid. Court-reform advocates stress not all those arrested for traffic violations are dangerous motorists.

Take the case of 25-year-old Jasmin Sosa.

In 2015, Sosa received a nearly $300 ticket for speeding in North Georgia – a fine she struggled to pay on a $100 weekly salary. Two years later, she was pulled over for turning left at a right-only stop sign, arrested and jailed in DeKalb County for several hours until her mother posted bail. She had no idea her license was suspended from the 2015 speeding ticket.

“I’ve carried a lot of shame,” Sosa said. “My forgetfulness gets me in trouble.”

Sosa said she feels some cautious optimism with the new law, but her treatment by police and the court convinced her she was punished more for being forgetful than her original infraction. “I’d love to put this behind me,” she said, but her court record has often forced her to explain her arrest to roommates, employers and romantic partners.

“The system set me up for failure in a lot of ways,” Sosa said.

Read the full story in State Affairs:

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