March 2, 2016
Question: May a municipal court suspend a person’s driver’s license for non-driving violations?
Dear City Court Administrator,
Melissa Ashburn forwarded me your question about suspending a person’s license for failure to appear/pay on general city ordinance violations. The short answer is, outside of traffic violations, the court cannot send in a driver license for suspension.
I suspect the information received from the criminal court relates to TCA 40-24-105(b)(1):
A license issued under title 55 for any operator or chauffeur shall be revoked by the commissioner of safety if the licensee has not paid all litigation taxes, court costs, and fines assessed as a result of disposition of any offense under the criminal laws of this state within one (1) year of the date of disposition of the offense. The license shall remain revoked until such time as the person whose license has been revoked provides proof to the commissioner of safety that all litigation taxes, court costs, and fines have been paid.
Since the offenses have to be in violation of criminal laws, municipal courts will not have jurisdiction to use this provision.
In terms of nonpayment, municipal courts are only allowed to send in a license for suspension if the defendant has failed to pay a fine imposed as a result of a traffic violation where the court ordered payments to be made in installments per TCA § 40-24-104.
The failure to appear issue is also limited to traffic violations. TCA § 55-50-502(a)(I) authorizes license suspension when a person fails to appear in court to answer or to satisfy any traffic citation issued for violating any statute regulating traffic. [This does exclude suspension for parking tickets.]
Of course, as you pointed out in your email, the “18 – 20 Alcohol Violations”, “Failure to Produce a Valid Registration” or “Financial Responsibility” also require you to report the violations for suspension purposes under their specific TCA sections.
Melissa reviewed this research and my response. She agrees with this conclusion.
Please let me know if you need any additional information on this subject.
Have a great day,
Abner C. Oglesby, JD
Municipal Court Specialist
UT Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)
1610 University Avenue, Suite 117-G
Knoxville, TN 37921