Gov. Brown forgives unpaid traffic tickets in Oregon

The Governor’s office estimates nearly 7,000 Oregonians with suspended driver’s licenses will be unburdened.
FILE - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signs a bill expanding access to contraception during a...
FILE - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signs a bill expanding access to contraception during a ceremony at the state Capitol in Salem, Oregon, on June 11, 2015.(Jonathan J. Cooper | Credit: AP)
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 5:12 PM PST
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SALEM Ore. (KPTV) - Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday signed an order forgiving unpaid court fines and fees related to certain traffic violations that led to license suspensions.

The Governor’s office said this removes the burdens associated with a state statute that disproportionately affected low-income Oregonians.

In 2020, Governor Brown signed into law House Bill 4210 which prohibited license suspensions for nonpayment of traffic fines. However, it left existing nonpayment-related license suspensions in place. Governor Brown’s action Wednesday, forgave that debt blocking many people from being able to lawfully drive.

“The inability to pay a traffic fine should not deprive a person of the ability to lawfully drive to work, school, health care appointments, or other locations to meet their daily needs,” Governor Brown said in a news release. “We know that suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic fines is bad public policy — it is inequitable, ineffective, and makes it harder for low-income Oregonians to get ahead. My action today will help alleviate the burden of legacy driver’s license suspensions imposed under a statutory scheme that the legislature has since overhauled.”

Governor Brown’s order affects only those people who were sanctioned in traffic violation cases over two years ago, prior to the effective date of HB 4210. The order expressly excludes misdemeanor or felony traffic offense cases, and it does not forgive money owed to victims. Beyond nonpayment-related sanctions, none of the affected individuals have suspended licenses due to public safety-related sanctions.

According to the Governor’s office, the vast majority of the fines and fees forgiven by the Governor’s order are considered uncollectible debt. Their collections data show that most people who can afford to pay their violation fines do so right away, but for cases like those included in the Governor’s order, collections rates drop to roughly 10% in the second year of delinquency, and to 4% or lower in year three and beyond.