Pilot Editorial: Fairness necessitates change to license suspensions


Virginia’s drivers license suspension practices are a good example of a perfectly fair unfairness. They do not need to be changed.

8 thoughts on “Pilot Editorial: Fairness necessitates change to license suspensions

  1. A “fair unfairness” is a rule or a law which treats offenders harshly, even to a degree with arbitrariness, but which reflects a legitimate purpose. That is, the rule itself is reasonable, but its enforcement seems cruel or unusual to some.

    The problem with rules in the fair unfairness category is that any enforcement of any rule will seem cruel or unusual to someone for some reason. The category is capable of infinite expansion. It invites infinite adjustment.

    In this case the argument for perfecting the imperfect is especially weak: Drivers license suspensions disproportionately affect the poor who are least able to overcome the adversity.
    The argument is undoubtedly true, as far as it goes, but then everything disproportionately affects the poor. So what?

    Let the laws remain as they have been. They are a blunt and ugly instrument, but they are not unreasonable. And that’s enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bail is not only unfair but totally unjust.

    A man accused of murder might get bailed out for $100,000 and if he is wealthy enough, that is an annoyance.

    A man accused of panhandling or drunk in public in a bus station might get $500 bail which he can’t make. He loses is job, maybe his apartment and car. ( I pick this example because I bailed out a man who did odd jobs for me in just such a case.)

    This is very similar to the license issue.

    The point of the law is to encourage payment of a fine, not to destroy the capability of paying it. That makes the law both unfair and stupid.

    Justice is not supposed to be a blunt and ugly instrument. It is supposed to be justice for all, rich or poor.

    I am reminded of Anatole France’s famous quote:

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.”

    I have often said that our system of justice is based on wealth. That is a travesty.


    1. Should a rich man pay a harsher penalty than a poor man for committing the same crime?

      I don’t think so. A legal system based on that principle could never deliver justice.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Law means nothing if there is no deterrence for violating it.

    Losing a license for DUI applies to all, rich or poor.

    Losing a license for not being able to pay a fine applies only to the indigent by virtue of inability to pay.

    Should a poor person pay a harsher penalty than a rich person for committing the same offense?

    You are apparently in favor of the best justice money can buy.

    There is justice and there is “just us” as comedian Dick Gregory once commented.


    1. RE: “You are apparently in favor of the best justice money can buy.”

      I’m not deluded in a belief that I can tell others what justice is. Nor do I find it troubling that the rich are less inconvenienced by legal penalties than the poor.


  4. I wish I could have suspended drivers licenses for people who failed to pay their dental bills.

    Bill collection is bill collection, Methods not available to the private sector should not be available to the government either.


    1. RE: “Bill collection is bill collection, Methods not available to the private sector should not be available to the government either.”

      Interesting concept.

      The private sector can withhold services from customers who don’t pay. Should government be limited in its ability to do the same?

      Also, doesn’t government have a superior interest in contract enforcement that justifies harsh penalties for those who don’t comply with their implied contract with government? Surely driver’s license suspension is a more equitable approach to exercising the state’s superior interest than, say, incarceration.


  5. If the debtor lived in Brooklyn suspending a drivers license would at most be an inconvenience since more than likely public transportation would be available and effective to continue employment.

    In much of Virginia it could mean a loss of a job. Which makes as much sense as debtors prison.

    I agree. Debt collection by the state should be in accordance with the law for the private sector.


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