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Driver License Recovery

In May 2018, the Justice Center and the Texas Law Civil Rights Clinic hosted a convening to highlight the impact on low-income Texans of automatic driver license suspensions, holds, and surcharges. The loss of one’s driving privilege profoundly affects the individual and, in many cases, that person’s entire family. The gathering engaged a wide range of stakeholders — judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, professional associations, advocates, and elected officials, among others — on these issues and highlighted emerging practices that limit the negative consequences.

The Justice Center also works in this area on the ground through assisted pro se driver license recovery legal clinics developed and launched by the Mithoff Pro Bono Program in 2017. Clinic partners include the Austin municipal courts, the Travis County Law Library, and Goodwill Industries, which collaborate to assist low-income individuals with driver license holds related to unpaid criminal justice debt. At a typical clinic, volunteer law students meet with drivers with license holds, research their license suspensions, and explain the steps the drivers must take to recover their licenses, often including obtaining a fee waiver, fee reduction, or alternative payment plan in a traffic case. Students help drivers complete financial affidavits in support of requests for fee relief, and volunteer attorneys help drivers present the requests to on-site judges.

Focus Area: Criminal Legal System