Plaintiffs file appeal to revive lawsuit against DMV program

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- The plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles' automatic driver's license suspension program have filed an appeal.

On Wednesday, they said they intend to appeal the dismissal of the complaint by asking the higher court to reverse it.

The lawsuit, Stinnie v. Holcomb, is a class action lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a state law that automatically suspends the driver's license of people who cannot afford to pay court costs and fines.

The U.S. District Court in Charlottesville dismissed the lawsuit in March, citing that DMV Commission Richard D. Holcomb was not a proper defendant and jurisdictional reasons.

"All the plaintiffs want is a chance to prove that the Commonwealth's automatic suspension law violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the law," said Angela Ciolfi, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center. "We hope the Fourth Circuit will agree that such an important civil rights case affecting so many of Virginia's residents should not be dismissed so early in the case."

TheU.S. Department of Justice filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the lawsuit and the arguments that the statute is unconstitutional.

"I want to work and support my family," said Demetrice Moore, one of the plaintiffs. "But public transportation is limited and it's hard to find jobs I can get to without a driver's license. Suspension for unpaid court debt makes it harder for courts to get their money. Virginia's policy hurts people and makes no sense."

According to a release, hundreds of thousands of low-income Virginia residents are trapped in debt and poverty by the automatic suspension program every year.

It says, for many such drivers, the are forced to choose between losing a job and risking jail time by driving on a suspended license, which the plaintiffs say are them being punished for poverty.

Lawyers intend to appeal the case to Richmond.

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