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ACLU taking state to court over due process and license revoking

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - The American Civil Liberties Union is taking North Carolina to court over a practice that's been going on for years.

The DMV automatically revokes a driver's license for having outstanding traffic fines or court costs. The ACLU said hundreds of thousands of people have been affected.

The federal lawsuit claims people aren’t being told that they have the right to a due process hearing before the court. The ACLU is suing the Department of Motor Vehicles to get that changed.

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When you are issued a traffic violation, you have to pay the fine plus court costs. In some cases, that can be hundreds of dollars.

The ACLU claimed that, when people are notified of the violation, the form they receive makes no mention of the right to ask for a hearing.

“It doesn’t give them an avenue for recourse. It says you must comply with the court order which means paying court fines and fees,” said Attorney Christina Beck of the ACLU. “It doesn’t say there is another way to get your license back.”

State law allows the DMV to revoke a license if a person doesn't pay the fine within 40 days.

“Right now, there are over 400,000 people in North Carolina whose licenses have been revoked simply because they have not been able to pay the court costs,” Beck said.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Seti Johnson. He said he was forced to use his rent money to pay off more $700 he owed so he could have his drivers license reinstated.

“We’re asking the court to restore licenses for those of lost them already, and to stop the process for those about to lose their licenses,” said Beck.

CBS 17 reached out to the DMV. Spokesman John Brockwell said, “NCDMV has not yet formally received this lawsuit. We will be glad to give you a call once we receive it and have time to review it.”

The lawsuit is going to be heard in federal court in Greensboro.

The ACLU is asking the court to make a ruling within 60 days.

Click here to read the full lawsuit. 

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