Returning citizens need three crucial things to rebuild their lives after being released from incarceration: affordable housing, a job, and reliable transportation. The key to all this is a driver's license. But here's the thing - many states suspend driver's licenses when the driver has unpaid fines, fees, or court debt. Oftentimes the only form of ID returning citizens enter the world with is an inmate identification card, which doesn't cut it for housing or employment. Crucial documents like birth certificates are lost in the shuffle of incarceration, losing contact with relatives, and losing housing. Without a driver's license, searching for a job is very difficult (86% of Americans drive to work), so there's no income to pay off those debts. The longer fines and fees go unpaid, the larger the interest becomes - and a growing cycle of debt is created, which is almost impossible to overcome without support. 

THE SOLUTION: Spread The Vote's new Fund 4 Fines. 

With your support, we will be able to pay our clients' reinstatement fees, fines, and other unresolved debt so they can finally get their driver's licenses back and begin to rebuild their lives. Funds raised will go directly towards reinstating our clients' licenses.

Most of our clients have between $250 - $2,500 in outstanding fines. Here's an example of one of our client's fees from Detroit, Michigan:

Expired plates - $228

Improperly displayed plate - $180

Failure to display operator's license - $95

No insurance - $95

TOTAL - $598

If you can, please consider becoming a monthly donor to this important effort. With your help, we can build an ongoing fund to assist as many of our clients as possible!


Here at Spread The Vote, we help people get the ID's they need to access housing, employment, healthcare, voting, and more. We have the know-how to get driver's licenses to the people who need them most - our hard-working staff and volunteers have helped thousands of people through this process, obtaining birth certificates, marriage and divorce records, and navigating the bureaucracy of Social Security and state DMV's. We also help our clients figure out exactly how much they owe, and set up manageable payment plans or get some fines forgiven where possible. But we need your help to clear our clients' fines and fees so they can truly be free from the cycle of debt.  


Follow @SpreadTheVoteUS for updates on the campaign

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The Fines and Fees Justice Center studies legal debt policy across the country - learn about this issue by following @FinesandFeesJC 

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    “Without this fund I know a few client's who still wouldn't have their IDs. This Fund4Fines is changing lives. I love what I do because work like this is critical!”

December 20, 2022

A mother, her children and a speeding ticket

It had been over four years since Alice was issued a speeding ticket, it was a traumatic event for her and her children, but the trauma of the stop didn't end with the officer telling her to slow down. 

The traffic stop didn't take more than 10 minutes, but the officer issued a citation that left a negative impact on the mother for many years. In the time between the traffic stop and Alice meeting Spread The Vote she struggled to maintain her lifestyle, being displaced from her home she was desperate to create some sense of stability for herself and her children. Her goal to register her children in school, but she couldn't do it without an ID.

She worked with us on getting her state ID first, it had been a complicated process for her after relocating from Georgia to Florida for a job opportunity. In less than a week she got her ID. Following that victory, she sought out getting her driver license. She was hopeful, but that one ticket issued prior to her transition held her back , that is until she was enrolled in FineFree. It could be a complicated process, but Alice was persistent in working with us from start to finish and now she's FineFree. She's grateful that now she'll, not only be able to register her children in classes for school, but now she's also able provide them with consistent transportation to-and-from school, extracurricular activities, and after-school events. 

Many thanks to those who continue to support our efforts as a part of the Fund4Fines! Your generosity is the holiday cheer this family needed in the perfect way.  

August 8, 2022

A Ton of Tickets with a Risk of Tow Gets Clear & Free

Billie Jean recently connected with us through our LA staff. After encountering a lot of trials over the past couple of years, a house fire left her dependent on her vehicle as her main source of shelter. Working as a caretaker, disagreements with her patient's son that she'd been caring for, left her injured. Now without a home; important documents for herself, like SSN and ID; and for her car, like title and registration she was stuck driving around with expired tags, incurring fines like parking tickets that she had no way to pay. 

She then found herself in a situation where her car was at risk of being towed, before that happened STV ordered her BC, and we helped her pay for a new title, a disabled placard, and her registration plus all the late fees. 

Now Jean is FineFree as she navigates a much better situation to get on her feet. This wouldn't be possible without your support for this program shining a light on these delicate issues.

July 25, 2022

Kelli’s Case, Part 3 - A HAPPY ENDING!

THE DAY IS HERE! The Fund 4 Fines team has been looking forward to sharing this update with you all for months now. We are so so pleased to tell you that, 16 months after we first began working with her, KELLI HAS HER LICENSE BACK. So how did we get here? Kelli’s persistence, together with your generous support, allowed us to overcome the many obstacles involved. 

Our last update on Kelli ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. We thought we had reached the finish line, but at the last minute we discovered that two incorrect citations had popped up on her record, preventing her from being cleared to drive again. Those citations were removed in February, but we had to wait until late March for another hearing, where a judge finally restored her driving privileges.

We scheduled a DMV appointment for early April, and were ready to pay her reinstatement fees to get Kelli back on the road. But yet another bureaucratic hurdle was placed before us when we arrived at that appointment. We were told that despite clearing all past citations and completing the hearings process, the court still hadn’t removed the hold on Kelli’s account. Unfortunately there was nothing the DMV could do about this - we were told she needed to go back to court and get a paper clearance, then return to pay her reinstatement fee. But when we got to the court as instructed, we were told the court didn’t issue paper clearances. 

(If you’re thinking “this is a mess!” well then…yes. We agree.)

The court was supposed to send an electronic clearance to the DMV so Kelli’s reinstatement could proceed, but because of yet another clerical error - an incorrect birthdate on the citation - that electronic clearance was delayed. A helpful court employee wrote out some instructions for Kelli on how to proceed, but she still had to wait until May to try again.

In May we went back to the DMV, and the Fund 4 Fines covered Kelli’s reinstatement fee. But there was one last obstacle to come. The DMV told us that the court had scheduled her license to be suspended again at the end of June, for a citation that we knew for a fact we had already resolved! Thankfully, the DMV allowed her to proceed with the licensing process in the meantime. Kelli took the written exam and left with her permit, while we got to work figuring out what this new suspension was all about. After some back-and-forth with the court, we discovered that the court had failed to submit a form called a “deletion of conviction” to the state, which would have deleted this issue from Kelli’s DMV record. 

The court submitted the form, and a few days later we called the DMV to see whether Kelli was in the clear - AND SHE WAS. She scheduled her road test and passed it with flying colors on June 8th. And finally, on June 23rd, she received her license in the mail. Kelli is free to drive.

Your generous contributions make this work possible. If you’re inspired by this story (or infuriated by how onerous this process is), we’d be so grateful if you shared our CrowdPac with a couple friends! With your help, we can get our other clients over the finish line.

March 4, 2022

An Update on Kelli's Case - Part 2

Last week, we told you about Kelli, one of our clients from Michigan who we’ve been working with on her driver’s license restoration for almost a year. Scroll back to our previous update for Part 1 of this story.

Throughout the fall of 2021, Kelli was waiting for a letter that would tell her whether a new Michigan law would help her get her license restored. On November 29, Kelli got her letter, and the new law hadn’t given her driving privileges back. We were disappointed, but we didn’t give up - we scheduled a hearing to address her outstanding fines. The court reduced her balance, and the Fund 4 Fines covered the rest for Kelli. It was now January of 2022, and with her debt cleared, we were confident that Kelli would get her license back. So we scheduled her DMV appointment, hoping that with this update, we’d be able to share the good news with you all.

The day came, and to our enormous frustration, her application was denied because two new citations popped up on her record - citations that we had never seen before in all our months of searching. In fact, Kelli suspected that they didn’t even belong to her, because her birthday and other personal information were incorrect on the records. Nevertheless, we had to schedule yet another court appearance to clear up the confusion.

Kelli appeared at a hearing on February 7. The two new citations were dismissed, as we hoped, but the judge still did not restore her driving privileges - for the final decision, we’re waiting for another hearing in late March, which will be more than a year after we first started working on this with her.

The truth is, delays and frustrations and disorganization and bureaucratic tangles are the reason why we do what we do. These systems are enormously complicated - even the most persistent and dedicated people can’t always navigate them on their own. Your contributions make this detailed and time-intensive work possible, and we are so grateful to you. With your continued support, we know we can get Kelli, and many other clients, over the finish line! We're looking forward to the end of the month, when we hope to hear that Kelli can get her license back. Thanks for coming on this journey with us.

February 25, 2022

An Update on Kelli's Case - Part 1

We were really hoping that with this update, we would be able to share some happy news about our client, Kelli, who we’ve been working with on her driver’s license restoration for almost a year. We want to share her story with you anyway, though, because while her case is complicated, it’s also a perfect illustration of how much this work matters.

We began working with Kelli on March 16th, 2021. Her driver’s license had been suspended for at least five years because of outstanding ticket debt. We immediately got to work figuring out a plan of action. In Michigan, where Kelli lives, tickets and other fees are issued by local district courts, and there is no centralized statewide database, so we began by searching for districts she had tickets in and how much those tickets were. During that first search, we discovered a balance of $349, which Kelli was able to cover with the help of a relative. We then made her an appointment with the Secretary of State’s office to get her “fact sheet” - these documents are supposed to show a full list of tickets and citations in all the state’s district courts.

Her fact sheet showed no balance, which was great news - we thought, could it really be this straightforward? But the very next day we checked another district court’s database and discovered an additional balance of almost $500, which wasn’t on the fact sheet. With a system this piecemeal, this unfortunately happens often. We also discovered that Kelli needed to make a court appearance before moving forward, which took a while to schedule due to pandemic-related court delays.

In the meantime, the state of Michigan passed the Clean Slate Law, which got rid of driver’s license suspensions for certain infractions. Everyone who had a suspended license was told to wait for a letter, which would tell them whether the law affected their cases. And so we waited, throughout the fall of 2021. During this time, Kelli remained hopeful - she even had a job lined up, but she couldn’t begin working until she got her license back. We also helped Kelli and our other clients navigate the complicated district-by-district fee system, by creating a guide to helping people search the court databases.

Stay tuned for our update next week on the rest of Kelli’s story!

December 6, 2021

Not Everyone Has A Lawyer for A Father

When Raenay was referred to us, she requested help with getting a replacement state ID because her name was incorrectly spelt on it. After connecting with her, we covered the $78 cost for her to order her birth certificate to use to obtain her replacement state ID ($10) with her full name spelt correctly. 

While living in the shelter and with the support of our Fund4Fines program, she found that her driver's license had been suspended due to several unpaid driving citations. We connected with her while she was living at a women's shelter and worked with her throughout her residency as her goal was to be legally driving by the time she was discharged. Fortunately, Raenay's father, an attorney, offered to help her with settling her fines after she trnasitioned out of the shelter. Now with her father's legal expertise, her vital records replaced and corrected ID in hand she had everything that she needed to appeal her citations through the district courts. 

Now Raenay's suspensions have been lifted and she's FineFree. 

Like Raenay, some of our clients our not only struggling due to unpaid citations, but they also struggle as a result of lost records that make it difficult for them to resolve their fines and fees, but not everyone's father is an attorney. We always help our clients obtain any lost records towards getting their ID, but the Fund4Fines was created to support our most difficult ID cases. 

September 27, 2021

After A Year of Working Together Cliff Finally Got his DL Back

We began working with Cliff August 2020. Cliff didn't know where to start, but after working with him for a few weeks we were able to help him identify where he had balances at 36th district court.

Cliff was struggling handle his citations because he had no access to reliable transportation to visit the 36th district court to pay in person. Along with that, after being incarcerated for some time Cliff is not at all computer savvy. Fortunately we were able to use the 36th district court's online "divdat" system to clear his citations and he received his clearances from the court. 

After getting his driving record cleared and receiving his clearance, Mr. Emerson hadn't had his driver license in years so he was required to retake his drivers tests. Finally retaking the written driving exam and after passing his road test, he got his driving permit one year later on August 2021.

September 16, 2021

STV Presenting our Work at Wayne State University

We would love for you to check out this panel in support of our Incarcerated & Returning Citizens (IRC) Programming. In collaboration with Nation Outside, The Sentencing Project and ChicagoVotes our IRC program director, Amani Sawari, has been invited to speak about our services for incarcerated and returning citizens at Wayne State University in Detroit. Whether or not you're directly impacted or living in the state of Michigan we would love for you to join us. These types of events allow us to share the unique challenges of our most difficult cases, our success stories and encourage more poeple to support the critical work that we are doing to support people impacted by the criminal legal system. If you can make it we would love to have you, online or in-person

Date: Sunday, September 19, 2021
Time: 3-6pm
Location: Wayne State Student Center, #285
or, register for Zoom:

September 9, 2021

Another Detroiter Seeking Freedom From 36th District Court Fines

We've been working with Mr. Graham for the past year, referred to us by his brother who we helped get his drivers license back in February. Mr Graham was on his way home from prison when we was referred to us and since working with us he's been able to get an official copy of his birth certificate, his state ID and have his fines cleared across multiple court districts. When he came home he had fines pending from as far back as ten years. 

It can be extremely difficult for returning citizens to get back on their feet when they come home especially when tasked with managing  citations and fee balances across multiple district courts, many of which are closed to in-person services. Coming home to a virtual world made is virtually impossible for Mr. Graham to figure out how to get his life back, but we're thankful for the generous donations that allow us to serve returning citizens in a critical way. 

July 27, 2021

Project ID Get's Another Client FineFree!

Tay was referred to us by his mother who we'd also been working with to get her DL. After successfully working on her case she wanted to make sure her son could also get his DL back before the school year started back up so that he could get a more reliable job that would be more flexible with his schedule. Tay had tickets in multiple counties before working with us. We were able to assist him with his reinstatement fee ($125) and transportation as he navigated between SOS and the courts to get his license back, now he can drive between his student, work and personal commitments stress free and most significantly,  fineFREE!

June 29, 2021

After 3 Trips to 36th District Court and 3 Trips to SOS, Devin Finally Got His DL Back!

Devin has multiple family members who rely on him for transportation, but while driving his his new car home last year he got two tickets for a missing plate and registration. Following that incident, his driver's license was suspended for failure to appear in court, he needed our help getting back on track.  
He was eager to take a new job opportunity that relied on him having a valid drivers license. His license was suspended for 6 months while we raised the money to pay off his clearances. 
SOS visit 1 - He was given a list of citations (posted in a previous update) that had to be paid before he could get his driver's license back
Court visit 1 - He was not allowed to pay his citations until he appeared before a judge
Court visit 2 - Hearing to address reason for failure to appear (incarceration)
Court visit 3 - Devin was finally allowed to pay the citations and clearances were sent electronically to SOS
SOS visit 2 - Systems were down at the branch and without verification Devin was unable to have his license restored
SOS visit 3 - SOS was able to view the clearances in their system and Devin's license was restored.

 Now his once suspended license is restored and thanks to your contribution Devin can drive worry free, stress free and most importantly fine free! Devin is looking forward to switching from his 12hour shift labor intensive job to a new driving opportunity that depended on him having his valid drivers license

Thank you for your ongoing support!

June 17, 2021

Another Client #FineFree but our work isn't done yet

SUCCESS! We were able to get clearances for another client this week! While we get more people fine free, we're finding gaps in communication between the courts and the state that leave our clients in limbo without our help.

When we initially met Chad and went to SOS to get his ID renewed in April, he had no idea about the two citations that were on his license from 2019. 

Over the following months we went back and forth between SOS and the local district courts to pay off his fines. Chad was able to match the support we gave him in order to get his fines cleared expeditiously. 

During our last visit to SOS, we were eager to pay the final $125 reinstatement fee when the clerk informed us that his license had been revoked. We were shocked as no one mentioned this iat our initial SOS appointment in April. While rebuilding his life Chad paid off his fines only to learn that wasn't enough. 

Fortunately with his clearances we were able to get him his state ID so that he'd have some type of valid identification while we request a hearing to have Chad's license restored. While we await a response from the state, we're committed to seeing all of our clients through the finish line. 

May 21, 2021

While We Wait for the Courts to Update Clearances ...

As a result of our community support, e've been able to clear a host of fines for Shawn and while we have the receipts from our online payment of all his fines with the 36th District Court, the battle for his case isn't over until they are able to update his status with the Secretary of State. According to SOS, their computer system is fed information by the courts thats been more slow than usual during the pandemic. 

While we continue to follow Shawn's case we're moving through more cases on our waitlist. We have another client, Devin, whose 3 citations, each for $95, add up to $285. His fines are viewable on the courts balance checking website, but when we try to pay for them on the 36th district court's fine payment website his name comes up with no results. We're sure that the tickets haven't been paid because SOS still has them in their system. How do the court expect us to be able to keep up with our end of managing our fines and fees enforced by the state, if the state fails to update their computer systems? Help us support Devin and Shawn today. 

May 6, 2021

36th District Court is Slow to Update Clearances

After all of Shawn's fees were paid with the 36th District court we waited three weeks before scheduling his appointment with the Secretary of State to have his license reinstated. We hoped to receive clearances in the mail, but the USPS hadn't delivered to Shawn's neighborhood in Southwest Detroit for nearly a month. We helped him get an appointment with SOS and took his receipts hoping to finally get his ID restored. 

Unfortunately not only are the same charges showing up in SOS' system that have already been paid to 36th district, but now SOS has pulled up charges in other cities from as far back as 2006, these new charges were not pulled when Shawn first visited SOS  in December 2020. 

Shawn was disappointed but is not deterred and feels confident that with our support of STV he can get out of the cycle of debt that years in the system distanced him from. Shawn's next steps are to check with 36th District court on the final clearances for the fines that were paid in full while we raise the funds needed to aid in the new cities where Shawn has holds.  

Please support our work getting IDs and restoring lives, let's get Shawn #FineFree!

April 16, 2021

Shawn's Fine Free, But Now He Needs His ID

Paying off one's fines is only the first part of the process to restore the lives of our most difficult client cases. Once all of the fines are paid a huge weight is lifted but the battle isn't over. 

Client's like Shawn that have paid their balances in the court, still need to complete the restoration process with the Secretary of State in order to get their valid drivers license. That process can include paying restoration fees that are charged by the licencing dept. (outside of the courts), re-taking drivers examinations or providing clearance paperwork. Shawn's been without a license for over a decade so we'll advocate for him throughout this entire restoration process. 

Whille we await final clearance paperwork from the court to provide to the SOS, this month we'll book his appointment with the Secretary of State to provide proof of payment for all of his court fees and finally get his valid ID. 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to pushing these cases forward thus far!

April 9, 2021

Our First #FineFree Detroiter is THANKFUL for the First 23 Supporters

Shawn hadn't had a valid drivers license for more than 11years. He was our first client in our Detroit Chapter that we struggled to get an ID for because of a host of fines & fees that he'd received over a decade ago. While trying to rebuild his life, work a steady job and support his family; the late fees piled on. As the years went on, the most costly and frequent fine he received was for not having a valid license, but with each fee that became harder to achieve. He knew he would not be able to get ahead of the situation no matter how hard he tried. 

Now with 23 #Fund4Fines advocates behind him Shawn is finally #FineFree! 

Thank you to those who've supported thus far and to those willing to do so in the future for the next client in need. 

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