Okay, that's not quite true. This post is based on Wulfgar who is in high dudgeon over the fact that his brother has been arrested for Driving While Suspended. Every state has similar laws, but this one in particular, the fact that if you are in arrears for your child support can lead the state to suspend your driver's license, seems to have him really going. He is blaming Bush (of course) and the post 9-11 Big Brother world that we live in. Trouble is, this law and its applications predate Bush. It was brought about by civic minded concerned citizens who wanted to make sure that dead beat dads were held to their court ordered child support. Another good example of well meaning intentions being used to screw over people.
I don't know Moorcat, nor all of the particulars of his situation, but I see it often enough. After spending $5-6,000 on a lawyer for a divorce, he is ordered to pay child support based on his income using a formula designed by the Child Support Enforcement Division. Everything is going along reasonably well, even though going through a divorce is devastating to both parties financially. But then - Whammo, your hours just got cut, or you are laid off, or whatever happens, your earnings are not what the court ordered child support payments are and you fall further and further behind.
Now, the law does provide that you can go to the court and argue a change in circumstances which requires that your child support be reduced. Providing of course that you can come up with the $1500 to $2,000 to pay a lawyer to do that. But you are broke, and the only free legal services are for the woman. As a man, you are basically screwed at this point.
Oh well, you work it out with the ex-wife, and she agrees to a reduced amount (if you are lucky), but then she goes to get AFDC. The fact that you are not paying all of the court ordered child support will be reported to the Child Support Enforcement Division who will then send you a letter and let you know that your license is going to be suspended. Sure enough, about a month later, you get a letter in the mail from the Montana Department of Motor Vehicles that says your license is suspended. and that after you make up the arrears in child support and pay the $100 license reinstatement fee, you can again legally drive.
In the mean time, you found another lower paying job, but you are at least making ends meet but you are not getting caught up with your arrears, but you are planning to do so.
One night after work, you stop off with your buddies and have a few beers. When you pull out of the parking lot, Officer Johnny Law is right behind you. The fact that you just pulled out of a bar is enough to pull you over, but this guy is good and he starts to follow you. While driving, you decide to call your new girlfriend and take your eyes off the road causing you to drift across the center line. You quickly correct, but it's too late, the lights from Johnny are on, and you're are pulled over. Johnny of course requests your Driver's License, proof of insurance and registration. You pull them all out and give them to the officer. He retreats to his patrol car where he runs your information, which comes back showing you suspended. He returns to your window, and asks if you have been drinking, and you admit to having two beers. The officer makes you get out and perform the field sobriety tests, which you have never done before, and you flunk. The officer is then going to offer the Preliminary Breath Test, and because of a storm coming through, you blow over .08. You are now under arrest, charged with DUI, and Driving While Suspended. Bail is set at $2000, which will cost you $300, which you will never see again, but at least you are out.
The next working day, you take time off from work (with no pay) and sit in court for three hours until you can enter Not Guilty pleas. Because you are poor, you will be assigned a public defender, who will read your police report, and think "Christ, the only thing missing is the Driving without Insurance to make the unholy trinity." After examining the facts, your Public Defender tells you that the fact that you drifted across the center line is enough for the stop, and all of the rest of the questions were legally valid. In other words, you are screwed.
You will later go to court, where if you have an experienced lawyer, he or she will argue to the judge that your suspension is a civil suspension, and so the mandatory two days in jail don't apply. The judge, however, is running for re-election, and she doesn't want to be seen as soft on crime, so she orders two days in jail anyways, a $1,000 fine for the DUI with $250 suspended, and another $1,000 with $500 suspended for the driving while suspended causing you to lose your job. She also orders you to attend the ACT classes, which will cost you another $500, and because your license was suspended, you are not to drive for another year. In addition, since you just took a conviction for DUI, your insurance company cancels your policy.
You complain to your defender, that her sentence makes it impossible to go to work and pay fines, child support or the ACT fees. To which your defender points out the obvious: They don't care.
Do you see a pattern here? If you are Bill Gates, the fines are no problem, and you can have your driver pick you up at home and take you to work. Of course in Montana, you could rely on the fantastic public transportation system that we have in order to get to work. Instead, we have a system that is designed to keep you poor. This is not just morally unjustified, it is impractical. In order to get to work to pay all of your obligations, you drive while suspended and without insurance. Further law breaking that if you are caught, will put you even further into the hole.
All of these laws have a valid societal interest, and are promoted by earnest, well meaning people. The trouble is, that in their application, they serve to create a permanent underclass, solve none of the problems, and cost a tremendous amount of money.
But at least we can feel good about ourselves that we are doing something about dead beat dads and drunk driving.