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San Francisco un-suspends thousands of driver’s licenses


San Francisco Superior Court has finally cleared a backlog of 88,000 suspended driver’s licenses for failure to appear in traffic court thanks in part to help from The City.

Mayor London Breed at a press conference on Tuesday at City Hall said getting a traffic citation, such as a parking ticket, can be an annoyance for some, but can also be a setback financially for many others:

“Imagine already struggling to pay your bills and then you receive a notice in the mail that your driver’s license was suspended, not only can you not drive legally but more and more companies require a driver’s license for employment.”

Breed added the court, which actually had stopped suspending driver’s licenses two years ago for failure to appear in court, needed $15,000 to clear the backlog of 88,000 holds on people’s driver’s licenses that had already been filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles:

“$15,000 which we provided and for $15,000 we can create a clean slate for everyone across our system. It may seem like a small amount, but it is going to have tremendous impact on so many people lives.”

Drivers who have their licenses suspended for driving recklessly or have other holds in other counties will continue to have their licenses suspended, Breed said.

Elisa Della-Piana, legal director for Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, said many families have come saying that they are unable to pay the traffic citations and are unable to drive to work, take their kids to school, or drive to doctor appointments:

“This step that San Francisco taking is saying we don’t want driver license suspensions to be a collection sledgehammer. We want driver license suspensions to be about public safety.”

Della-Piana continued:

“88,000 license suspensions lifted. That means more people who can work.”

District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton said this was equity at work:

“Eliminating these unnecessary fines that stifle folks who are trying to work to earn a living is the right thing to do.”

Drivers can find out if their license suspension was lifted by the calling the DMV Mandatory Action Unit at (916) 657-6525.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to

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