Getting My License Back

Why does the Center for Justice have this program?

In Washington State, a person’s driver’s license can be suspended indefinitely for failure to pay traffic fines. As of 2011, nearly 300,000 Washington licenses were suspended for failure to pay tickets. The tickets often get sent to a collection agency which charges interest and fees. Many who cannot afford to pay the fines are nevertheless compelled to keep driving in order to earn a living. When people drive while their license is suspended for nonpayment of fines, they can be charged and convicted of the crime of Driving While License Suspended 3 (DWLS 3) under current law. This crime is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. DWLS 3 makes up one-third of the misdemeanor cases filed statewide.

The current system of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines disproportionately affects the poor and contributes significantly to the cycle of poverty, unemployment, and incarceration. To break this cycle, we offer a Relicensing Program that helps participants pull their unpaid tickets out of collection agencies, consolidate them into one reasonable monthly payment per court, eliminate interest and fees, and drive legally while making payments. Additionally, a mandatory Rules of the Road and Fundamental Budgeting class provides tools for long-term success. CFJ’s Relicensing Program changes lives by giving people an opportunity to stop the cycle of debt, incarceration, and unemployment caused by indefinite license suspension.

How do you become a Participant?
If you are interested in becoming a participant in our program, please call 509-835-5211 then ask for the Drivers License department to set up an appointment.

We may tell you to first go to the City Prosecutor’s Community Relicensing Program (509-835-5951) to ask if you qualify for their program. We serve those individuals who do NOT qualify for the City’s program – we serve those who have extensive criminal history, revocations in the 1st or 2nd degree, who live outside of Spokane County, or who have issues requiring legal assistance.

What if you don’t live in Spokane County?
If you do not live in Spokane County but you have unpaid traffic tickets holding your license from one of the counties we work with, we can still help.

Please print ALL of the following documents, including $200.00 payment, and mail the complete packet to Center for Justice 35 W. Main, Suite 300 Spokane, WA 99201. Please call 835-5211 then ask for the Drivers License department to see if you qualify before sending documents.

  1. Dear Out of County Applicant Letter
  2. Intake Sheet
  3. Conduct Pledge
  4. Participation Agreement
  5. Financial Sheet
  6. Release of Information & Authorization to Request Records
  7. Release for Third Party Presence at Intake
  8. Letter Why I Need My License Reinstated

When are Assessment Appointments?
The days and times may vary. You need to call 835-5211 then ask for the Drivers License department to make an appointment before coming down.

Women’s-Specific Relicensing Class
Due to the gracious generosity of the Smith-Barbieri Foundation and the Community Building Foundation, the impossible is being made possible for local women. The Center for Justice is pleased to announce that, beginning May 10, 2014 staff and volunteers will commit four hours, one Saturday a month to an all-women’s relicensing class. The goal of this program is to eliminate barriers currently holding women back in the community. In addition to relicensing assistance, the class will provide budgeting and community resource education, and will provide a safe space for women to share and support one another. Please call 509-835-5211 then ask for the Drivers License department to get signed-up.

What to Bring to the Assessment Appointment:
You must bring ALL of these or we cannot assess you.

  1. Photo ID
  2. Money Order for $150 if in Spokane – $200 if outside of Spokane County (Do not fill out)
  3. Defendant Case History (Retrieved from the Municipal Court window at the courthouse)
  4. Name Summary (Retrieved from the Municipal Court window at the courthouse)
  5. Driving Abstract from Department of Licensing (Costs $13)
  6. Two Insurance Quotes or Proof of Insurance
  7. Proof of Income or Letter of Support if Unemployed

What to Expect at the Assessment Appointment:
At your appointment, we will review your paperwork to determine whether you qualify for our program. If we determine that you qualify, we will ask you to fill out additional paperwork. You will then participate in a Rules of the Road and Budgeting Class that helps you learn strategies to make smart spending decisions.

Court Paperwork: After Assessment, we will create court orders. This paperwork must be signed by you, our attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge. We will call you once your orders have been created and we will make an appointment for you to come into the Center for Justice to sign them. Once all signatures are received, we will file the paperwork with the courts. The courts will then send a Certificate of Adjudication to DOL that tells them that those unpaid fines no longer are holding your license.

Timeline: Typically, the entire process takes about 2 weeks; however, the timeline is entirely dependent on the availability of the prosecutors and judges that need to sign court paperwork. As the result, sometimes the process moves along more quickly while at other times it takes longer.

Making Payments: You will pay PAR if you have Spokane Municipal and/or Spokane District Orders. You must pay on or before the 25th of each month. Your Orders will tell you what month to make your first payment. If you have any questions concerning your payments, you can contact PAR at 509-232-7880. For other jurisdictions, we will explain who and how to pay.

Additional Attorney Assistance (1st degree, 2nd degree, and tickets in other courts in WA): If your license is suspended in the 1st or 2nd degree, or you have tickets in other courts in Washington that we do not have a relationship with, our attorney can potentially help you for an additional fee. Our attorney can represent you in a Habitual Traffic Offender Reinstatement hearing for a $100 fee. Our attorney can help you resolve tickets in other Washington courts for $25 per court.

Getting a License (DOL, tests, fees): Once the judge signs your orders, it is up to you to make your payments, get insurance (often SR-22) and go to DOL to get a license. Check with DOL directly about testing requirements and fees.

If a Payment is Missed: If you miss a payment, first contact PAR 509-232-7880 to see whether your tickets have been sent back to collections. If not, ask PAR if you can make a late payment and avoid penalty. If your tickets have been sent back to collections and you went through our program within the last six months, we can help you get back on a payment plan for a $100 fee. If you went through our program more than six months ago, you will need to pay the entire $150 fee and re-attend our Rules of the Road and Budgeting class.

Advocacy Efforts: The Center for Justice is engaged in local and statewide efforts to create driver’s license policies that do not unfairly or unjustly burden the poor.
• See “Voices of Suspended Drivers: An Intimate Look into Washington’s Policy of Suspending Driver’s Licenses for Non-Payment of Traffic Fines.” Center for Justice, 2013. This report presents the stories of people who have had their driver’s licenses suspended and makes recommendations for policy reforms.
• Visit our Smart Justice Project page to learn more.

Thank you to our generous drivers relicensing sponsors!


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