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Bill hopes to reverse driver’s license suspension over unpaid fees

RICHMOND, Va. – Brianna Morgan's 2014 traffic violation still impacts her, four years later in 2018.

"It gives the conviction date, and what the conviction was fail to stop or yield entering a highway," Morgan said, pulling out her court papers as proof. Because she could never pay off her court fees, the court suspended her driver's license.

"It was devastating. I had a sick parent. I have children. Trying to get transportation to get them to doctor's appointments and school became extremely difficult," Morgan said.

Morgan still has not paid off the accumulating fees, so she currently has a state issued ID card instead of a license.

"You can't even apply to jobs if you don't have a driver's license," Morgan said.

A bill sponsored by Senator William Stanley (R-20th District) that recently passed the state Senate could help Morgan and the hundreds of thousands of others who have their licenses suspended for the same reason.

"For people who are poor, or like you said, living paycheck to paycheck, it's just not feasible," Morgan said.

Senate Bill 181 would repeal the requirement that the driver's license of a person convicted of any violation who does not immediately pay fines or court costs have their license suspended, and Virginia's Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, Brian Moran, said that's a good idea.

"Using the driver's license as a punitive measure obviously isn't working," Secretary Moran said.

Moran said roughly 638,000 Virginians have a suspended license due to unpaid court costs and fees.

"The problem with that is people need their driver's license to work so they can pay off their fines and costs," Moran said.

Meaning, the state is missing out uncollected money.

Yet, Senator Ryan McDougle ( R-4th District), who voted against the bill, said the legislature has made significant changes in this area last year, and he wants to wait and see if they're effective before making any more changes.

"We put a pretty dramatic change in place in Virginia with allowing community service to be used in lieu of paying fines and fees and putting in a statewide system that you asked for; a payment plan, you got a payment plan," McDougle said.

The House will consider the bill next. CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit was told it may have a tough time getting out of committee in the House, but if it does, it could have a good chance of passage.