Nowadays driver’s license suspensions are passed out almost as freely as tickets themselves once were, yet they can often be economically and personally devastating to their targets [NPR via Brian Doherty]:
If you get caught drinking and driving in Wisconsin, and it’s your first offense, you lose your license for nine months. For a hit-and-run, the punishment is suspension for one year.
But if you don’t pay a ticket for a minor driving offense, such as driving with a broken tail light, you can lose your license for two years. …
The most common way that people lose their driver’s license in Wisconsin is not for drunken driving or other unsafe driving. It’s for failure to pay the fine on a ticket for a nonmoving traffic offense. Those make up 56 percent of all license suspensions in the state, according to statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Many of the jobs that enable indigent persons to climb out of poverty call for use of a car, as with cleaning jobs, which typically require driving to the homes or offices being cleaned. Many other jobs are not near bus or mass transit lines, while in other cases the job seeker does not live near such a line. Absent an income from work, there is less hope of paying off the debt to the state. So even if one adopts the cynical view that Wisconsin makes the penalty higher for missing a ticket payment than for a hit-and-run because it is obsessed with maximizing its revenues, it’s not necessarily doing that efficiently either.
More on petty fines and fees here.