Case name: Johnson and Smoot v. Jessup

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of North Carolina, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are suing the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for revoking driver’s licenses of people who cannot afford traffic tickets.

The North Carolinians impacted by this punitive scheme are stripped of their ability to support themselves and their families, as drivers’ licenses are crucial to securing and maintaining employment, driving children to school, and obtaining basic needs.

The federal lawsuit challenges the DMV’s revocation of driver’s licenses without first providing proper notice and hearings to ensure that only the licenses of people who have not paid traffic fines and costs, but have the ability to do so, are subjected to license revocation.

Plaintiffs in the case seek a court order declaring that North Carolina’s law and the DMV’s practice of revoking driver’s licenses are unconstitutional. They also seek an injunction to prevent the DMV from revoking licenses for nonpayment without first providing hearings to determine whether motorists willfully did not pay and without sufficient notice of options other than payment to prevent license revocation for those who cannot afford to pay. The suit also requests an injunction that would require the DMV to restore any licenses that were revoked solely for nonpayment.

Pictured: Plaintiff Seti Johnson. Photo Credit: Rick Hovis.

Date filed

May 30, 2018


U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina