In August, a student at Clark Atlanta University was pulled over for speeding. And shortly after that – when she showed the officer her Michigan driver’s license – she was arrested.
Turns out driving with a license from six states – including Michigan – and breaking a traffic law can land you in jail.
“I’m quite confident that most people have never heard about this law,” says Russell Covey, a law professor at Georgia State University.
Covey says it was the first time he heard about the law, called the Non-Resident Violator Compact.
Under the Non-Resident Violator Compact, if you’re driving through Georgia with a license from Alaska, California, Michigan, Montana, Oregon or Wisconsin, and you get pulled over for a traffic ticket, you will be arrested and asked to post bond.
At least that’s what officers are told to do according to this addendum written by the City of Atlanta.
“The state is concerned with receiving bond or actually having that person go before a judge and answer to those charges," Ralph Woolfolk of the Atlanta Police Department says. "Because if not, essentially you could just tear up a traffic ticket and never report to court and answer to the charges.”\
The Non-Resident Violator Compact is an agreement between states for dealing with traffic violators. In most cases, states will help each other out. If, for example, you’re from New Jersey and you get pulled over in Georgia, New Jersey agrees to suspend your license if you’re found guilty.
Professor Covey says most officers probably use discretion on whether to send someone to jail if they’re from one of the non-member states.
“Most people pay their tickets," Covey says. "So I think the question is whether or a not a police officer, in making the decision to bring somebody in, in a situation like this, is exercising their discretion wisely.”
So what are you supposed to do if you’re from Alaska, California, Michigan, Montana, Oregon or Wisconsin, and you’re a college student?
“Try not to break the law or carry some cash with you,” Covey says.
That way you'll have enough cash to pay off any fines in court if you're taken in.