New Mexico lifts debt-based suspensions of driver’s licenses for 100,000 residents

Jul 26, 2023, 12:45 PM | Updated: 12:58 pm

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s motor vehicle division has lifted the suspension of driver’s licenses for more than 100,000 residents under new anti-poverty legislation, officials announced Wednesday.

Bipartisan legislation signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in March called for an end to the widespread practice of suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay a fine or failure to appear in court.

At least 23 other states have taken similar steps to end debt-based suspensions of driver’s licenses that can make it harder for individuals to pay off debts and care for their families.

The New Mexico law does not apply to commercial driver’s licenses nor suspensions for other reasons related to dangerous driving or accumulated traffic violations.

License suspensions also have been cleared for more than 160,000 out-of-state drivers with New Mexico citations, the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department said in a news release. New Mexico will notify other states.

The changes leave underlying citations and fines on drivers’ records. There is no fee under the new law to reinstate a driver’s license after a suspension is lifted, though payments may be required for licenses that expired while under suspension.

Sponsors of the law, including Republican state Sen. Crystal Diamond of Elephant Butte and Democratic state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos, say debt-based license suspensions are counterproductive.

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New Mexico lifts debt-based suspensions of driver’s licenses for 100,000 residents