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New laws to eliminate court fees and reinstate nearly 300,000 driver's licenses

George Hodan
Public Domain Pictures

 New Mexico has new laws that will take effect July 1, 2024 that address the steep cost of fines and fees and the associated penalties for nonpayment. Advocates say the impact will be significant.

Lawmakers passed two bills in this year’s legislative session that were then signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to address the steep burden of court related fees. HB 139 eliminates fees and expands the definition of community service to include participation in academics, vocational training, and recovery treatment.

Attorney Monica Ault is state director for the New Mexico Fines and Fees Justice Center. She said not only will these fees be eliminated but the law creates a pathway for those who currently owe debt to petition the courts to either waive or reduce that debt.

"So we’re hoping there’s going to be a huge uptick in the amount of income that families are going to bring home, but also in spending. It could have sort of a major trickle down effect" said Ault.

While New Mexican’s won’t see that portion of the law take effect until July 1, 2024, another bill, SB 47, directs the Motor Vehicle Department starting in July this year to reinstate over 300,000 driver’s licenses that were suspended because of the nonpayment of fees. That is about 1 in 5 adults in the state.

Ault said this will not only help families get to work and take their loved ones to healthcare appointments, but it’s another boost to the economy.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.
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