Charlottesville office managing partner Jonathan Blank was quoted in a May 31 Associated Press story on Virginia’s patchwork system of payment plans for traffic fines that pulls low-income individuals into a worsening whirlpool of debt.
In the story, Blank addressed the disparate methods local courts in Virginia impose fines for offenses such as speeding without regard for a driver’s capacity to pay, then suspending the drivers’ licenses of those who fall behind on unforgiving payment plans. “It’s just not a level playing field for people without means,” Blank told the AP, stressing the need for a fairer system that accounts for a violator’s ability to pay in calculating penalties. “We have a means-based test to see if someone qualifies for a court-appointed attorney, but not for how we are going to punish someone,” Blank said. Why can “we do it on the front end and not the back end?”