Over the next 60 days the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) will be contacting by mail and email more than 185,000 drivers whose licenses were revoked for their failure to pay fines, penalties, and court costs. Those drivers will be informed in a special notice about their ability under North Carolina General Statute § 20-24.1 to have the NCDMV lift those revocations if the sentencing court finds their failure to pay was not willful and was instead due to their inability to afford the amount due. A driver may make this showing of inability to pay by filing with the sentencing court a motion for relief from fines and fees. The NC Administrative Office of the Courts has created a template motion that can be used for this purpose: Form AOC-CR-415. For a six-month period following the announcement of the settlement, the NCDMV will mail a copy of this template motion to drivers upon request.
The NCDMV has also revised the official notice it will send to drivers who will face future license revocations for failure to pay court debt. The revised notice will inform drivers that North Carolina General Statute § 20-24.1 permits them to prevent the revocation of their license by filing with the sentencing court a motion for relief from fines and fees. Previously, the NCDMV revocation notice indicated that full payment of the amount of fines, penalties and court costs due was the only option to prevent an indefinite driver’s license suspension.
The NCDMV agreed to these changes as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed in May 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The written settlement agreement, including the special and revised notices, as well as an advisement of Section 20-24.1 rights, will be made available on the NCDMV’s website (www.ncdot.gov/dmv), and at local NCDMV offices, and in the North Carolina Driver Handbook.
The NCDMV has also agreed that it will help fund a North Carolina legal advocacy organization’s creation, monitoring, and administration of a help and resources website, where the public can access informational videos, written explanatories and forms, and other best practices materials on how to prevent or remove a license suspension for non-payment from their record, as well as pro bono resources that may be able to provide representation to the public to help prevent or remove suspensions for non-payment from their record. The special and revised notices will reference the website for 18 months.
Individuals with questions about the settlement or their options for lifting existing driver’s license revocation orders or preventing a pending revocation order from becoming effective, may contact www.resolvetrafficdebtNC.org.