End Driver's License Suspension for Chicago Ticket Debt

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[Please share your story in the comments if you have one!]

Over 11,000 suspended licenses. (1)

Thousands of lost jobs. (2)

10,000 bankruptcies. (3)

This is just some of the wreckage left by the City of Chicago's excessive ticket collection practices. Ticket debt is one of the debts trapping low-income people in an endless spiral (Full report: Stopping the Debt Spiral by Community Organizing and Family Issues and POWER-PAC). Illinois has no statute of limitations on parking tickets, and in Chicago, City Hall relies on parking tickets for 7% of the city's budget (4). The city has been found issuing duplicate tickets and issues more tickets in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods (5). 

City payment plans are inflexible, and in a handful of Chicago neighborhoods, the tickets stack up faster than families can afford payments. When people fall behind, the city tacks on fines and fees, boots and tows cars, and asks the Illinois Secretary of State to suspend driver's licenses. 80% of driver's licenses suspended for Chicago parking and compliance tickets are issued to people in communities of color (6), further pushing people into poverty and making employment more difficult.

The Mayor of Chicago can stop this. Last year, advocates including the ACLU of Illinois, Chicago Appleseed, Chicago Jobs Council, Community Organizing and Family Issues, Heartland Alliance, Woodstock Institute and more worked to pass state level reforms. The License to Work Act would eliminate driver's license suspension as a penalty for most non-driving violations like parking tickets, city sticker tickets, and a handful of other minor violations. 

But the Mayor's lobbyists stopped the bill from moving forward in Springfield. Most states don't use driver's license suspension as a penalty for parking tickets, and many are ending suspension for debt collection, so we know Chicago doesn't need this excessive power. The national experts agree: we should only suspend licenses of bad drivers, not people who are too broke to pay excessive tickets, fines, and fees (7).

Tell the Mayor: Support the License to Work Act and end driver's license suspension for ticket debt in Chicago! 

Comment and share your story after you sign: Do you live in Chicago? Have you lost a job from a suspended license, or threatened to have your license taken away? Maybe you found out about this because you were just suspended. Let us know!



(1) Most suspensions for parking and compliance tickets come from Chicago. There were 11,000 such suspensions in Illinois from 2016-2017. Woodstock Institute, The Debt Spiral.

(2) In Illinois, half of survey respondents with a suspended license missed out on a job or job opportunity because of the suspension. Chicago Jobs Council, Living in Suspension.

(3) "In 2007, an estimated 1,000 Chapter 13 bankruptcies included debts to the city, usually for unpaid tickets, with the median amount claimed around $1,500 per case. By last year, the number of cases surpassed 10,000, with the typical debt to the city around $3,900." ProPublica Illinois, How Chicago Ticket Debt Sends Black Motorists Into Bankruptcy. Often, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy provides the only way for someone to keep their driver's license or get it back.

(4) ProPublica Illinois, How Chicago Ticket Debt Sends Black Motorists Into Bankruptcy.

(5) ProPublica Illinois, Three City Sticker Tickets on the Same Car in 90 Minutes?

(6) Woodstock Institute, The Debt Spiral.

(7) American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, Best Practices Guide to Reducing Suspended Drivers.

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