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Coller & Evans
Representing clients in Jacksboro, LaFollette, Caryville, Campbell County and Throughout East Tennessee.

On the road again…legally

A state law that takes away driver’s licenses because of unpaid court debt may go down this year. That’s because of a landmark lawsuit in the U.S. District Court this spring.

Judge Aleta A. Trauger refuses the state of Tennessee’s request to reject the lawsuit. In her official memorandum about the case, she stated that one of the fundamental rights of citizens, the right to travel interstate, is not recognized by this law. Now, the lawsuit initiated by two state citizens with low incomes is set to become a game changer for over 100 thousand people.

A Never-Ending Cycle

Many of the thousands of people that lose their driver’s license because of debt stay trapped in a never-ending cycle of debt. One of the major reasons for this is driving without a license, which results in more legal charges and fines.

Another primary reason why individuals affected by this law stay in debt is their inability to drive to employment to earn money to pay off their debts. If they do go to work, they may have to call for a taxi ride, which becomes a formidable expense over time, and perpetuates indebtedness. To date, less than 10 percent of those affected by this law have regained their right to drive.

The State’s Reasoning

The state claims that the law’s purpose was to provide an incentive to pay the state their due. Judge Trauger notes that poor citizens have less of a chance paying off a debt when they cannot drive. Her opinion may very well bring back dignity as well as driving rights to thousands of Tennesseeans.

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