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Judge says driver responsibility fees a “burden on poor people”

Oct 31, 2017

The Michigan District Judges Association has asked Governor Snyder to get rid of Michigan’s Driver Responsibility Fees.
Credit MICHIGAN STATE POLICE

They've been described as "obnoxious and counterproductive," and that was from the former lawmaker who helped pass legislation authorizing Michigan's Driver Responsibility Fees.

Now, the Michigan District Judges Association has weighed in against these fees. The judges have sent a letter to Governor Snyder asking him to get rid of the fees, which they call an "outrageous burden" on the backs of Michigan's working class.

Judge William Kelly is one of those critics and has been for years. He's on the bench of the 62-B District Court in Kentwood. He joined Stateside today to explain what these fees are, why he's critical of them, and what he believes a fair solution might be.

Listen to the full conversation above, or read a highlight below.

On what Judge William Kelly sees in his courtroom

“Every week, we have many people coming before the court for driving on a suspended license. In the month of September, 82 people were scheduled to appear in the 62-B District Court in Kentwood for driving with license suspended. Of those, 37 – that’s 45 percent of them – owed 176 driver responsibility fees. And eight of those 37 people had had their license suspended for more than five years for failure to pay a Driver Responsibility Fee. And only 21 – that’s about a quarter – of these people who were scheduled to appear before me for driving with a license suspended were suspended for bad driving … We’re inundated with people who are charged with driving on a suspended license. It’s not that they’re bad drivers. It’s that they're poor, financially poor drivers.”

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