Hernandez v. California DMV (Driver's License Suspension)

Closed Case
Oct 24, 2016

Page Media

DMV photo by Michael Ocampo via flickr

The ACLU Foundation of Northern California, along with a coalition of legal organizations, is suing the California Department of Motor Vehicles for illegally suspending the driver's licenses of low-income Californians.

Many Californians do not have valid driver’s licenses because they cannot afford to pay the exorbitant fines and fees associated with a routine traffic citation. State law allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend the licenses of people who have willfully failed to pay these fines and fees, but most California traffic courts do not give drivers a meaningful opportunity to prove that their failure to pay is due to poverty, rather than willfull non-compliance. 

The suit was brought on behalf of drivers who have had their drivers licenses suspended in violation of their statutory, due process, and equal protection rights. Each plaintiff was unable to pay the exorbitant fines associated with routine traffic tickets, and had his or her license suspended without an assessment of their ability to pay. This statewide suit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court after the DMV failed to respond to a demand letter sent on August 1, 2016. Plaintiffs are represented by:

  • The ACLU Foundation of Northern California
  • Bay Area Legal Aid
  • Clare Pastore, USC Gould School of Law
  • The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR)
  • Western Center on Law & Poverty
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
  • East Bay Community Law Center

Learn more

Low-Income Drivers Sue California DMV for Illegally Suspending Licenses (Oct. 25, 2016)

Conductores de bajos recursos demandan al DMV de California por suspender ilegalmente licencias de conducir (Oct. 25, 2016)

CA Legal Orgs Bring First-of-its-kind Lawsuit Challenging Harmful Driver’s License Suspension Policies (Jun. 15, 2016)

The Government Wants to Take Away My License Because I’m Poor. I Need It To Survive. (Jul. 6, 2016)

Driver’s License Suspensions Still a Problem for People Too Poor to Pay Exorbitant Traffic Fines (Mar. 21, 2016)

Case Developments