SAN FRANCISCO—The city of San Francisco is  offering an amnesty period for individuals with suspended licenses in San Francisco. Governor Jerry Brown, who has long held the view that drivers’ license penalties harms the poor, signed the amnesty program which will last until Friday, March 31.

The amnesty program is an effort to remove a barrier that economically weak sections may face in gaining employability. By offering to reinstate driver’s licenses, individuals would have higher chances of getting gainfully employed, city agencies report. The amnesty program will reinstate the driver’s licenses suspended under the Failure To Appear (FTA) and Failure To Pay penalties.

“Suspended driver’s licenses disproportionally impacts communities of color and low income individuals. In San Francisco, we want to ensure through this program, that every resident effected has access to this Amnesty program and to has equal access to job opportunities—leading to a pathway out of poverty,” said Todd Rufo, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the Financial Justice Project, an initiative of the Treasurer’s Office, launched a multi-lingual Public Service Announcement and outreach campaign to increase the number of San Francisco residents who apply for the Amnesty program before the deadline.

“Driver’s license amnesty is a critical opportunity for people to get out of debt and back on the road,” said José Cisneros, Treasurer of the City and County of San Francisco. “As the Governor indicated in his budget, suspending licenses for failures to appear in court or pay a fine doesn’t improve public safety and it harms poor people.”

Most driver’s license holds in California originate from either a failure to appear in court (FTA) or a failure to pay court-ordered fines (FTP) infraction. In the three year period ending in March 2015, more than 10,000 San Francisco drivers received over 15,500 holds for FTAs alone according to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). These drivers are disproportionately represented in the City’s lower-income neighborhoods including in the Bayview Hunters Point, Treasure Island, and the Tenderloin. The San Francisco Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights has noted an above-average suspension rate across the State in zip codes with 20 percent or more African-American residents.

A multilingual public service announcement campaign has been launched courtesy of the OEWD and the Financial Justice Project, to increase awareness about the program among San Francisco residents. The initiative aims at maximizing the number of people benefitting from the amnesty.

In January 2017, legislation SB185 was introduced by Sen. Robert Hertzberg. he legislation sought to advance Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to stop license suspensions for drivers who are unable to pay traffic fines.

As part of his 2017-2018 proposed budget, Governor Brown introduced legislation that will do away with license suspensions as a mechanism for the enforcement of debt. All eligible San Franciscans can take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Amnesty program to reduce their debt and get their licenses back right away.

San Francisco is also partnering with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, which provides application assistance and to the general public and guidelines for case workers and nonprofit partners Project Legal Link, which hosts an online resource page related to the program. San Francisco is the first city in the nation to launch a Financial Justice Project to assess and reform how fees and fines impact our cities’ most vulnerable residents. The Financial Justice Project is an initiative of the Office of the Treasurer.

In addition to the official web link on the Amnesty Program on the San Francisco Superior Court’s web site, the City also launched a web page about the program,, and 311 will provide information to callers in multiple languages.

Written By Parnika Goel and Donald Roberts