DC must allow drivers who owe more than $100 in fees to renew licenses, judge rules

A federal judge has ruled in favor of a group of D.C. residents who fought to allow drivers who owe more than $100 in fines or fees to get or renew their driver's licenses.

The five plaintiffs alleged in a lawsuit back in July 2022 that D.C.'s Clean Hands Law violated the Fifth Amendment. 

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The "Clean Hands" mandate says individuals and businesses are to be denied city goods or services, such as licenses, if there is a debt of more than $100 for fees, fines, taxes or penalties owed to the city.

"As D.C. law creates the expectation that renewals will be granted, applicants have a viable argument of a legitimate claim of entitlement to such renewals," the judge wrote in her ruling.

D.C. passed a bill last summer that amended the type of licenses and permits that require Clean Hands, so that individuals can obtain a driver’s license or permit without Clean Hands. It was not set to take effect until October 2023.

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"The Court also notes that although the Clean Hands Law will be repealed in October 2023, that does not rebut Plaintiff’s irreparable harm nor obviate the need for injunctive relief now," the judge wrote.