The Reason Walter Scott Ran?

The tragic murder of South Carolina resident Walter Scott by Police Officer Michael Slager has an underlying story with broader implications. While Officer Slager initially pulled Scott over for a minor traffic violation, his family believes that Scott took off running and initiated the pursuit leading to his death over fear of an outstanding warrant. The warrant had been issued for failure to appear at a court hearing for unpaid child support. Scott’s family claims that he had fallen behind years ago, and was sent to jail due to his non-payment. His time in jail cost him his job, and his unemployment put him further behind in his child support payments.

Scott’s story illustrates a vicious cycle of debt leading to punitive measures such as jail and/or license suspension, which often results in unemployment and causes more debt. A repeat of this cycle may have been what Scott was running away from, only to tragically be killed in the attempt.


In the 1980s and 1990s, child support from non-custodial parents–overwhelmingly men–was abysmal, and the term “deadbeat dad” was coined. States passed various enforcement mechanisms, such as court orders for wage garnishment, incarceration for non-payment, license suspension for default, etc. Since these measures went into effect, critics have attacked the outcome on several fronts. The first is that the system favors those in higher income brackets because child support payments are calculated based on imputed income, not actual income, and therefore does not always reflect true employment and employability. Additionally, child support is not a percentage of income and does not rise proportionally with income, meaning someone in the bottom income brackets can be ordered to pay 75-80% of their pay in child support while a top income earner might only pay 15-20% of their income toward child support.

A second criticism is that incarcerating someone for failure to pay only exacerbates an already bad situation. If the person has a job, he or she will likely lose it; if they are unemployed, they will remain so even longer, and have jail time on their record. In 2010 in Georgia, 3,500 parents were jailed for failure to pay child support.

The third criticism focuses on the enforcement tactic of suspending state-issued driver’s and professional licenses to force payment of unsatisfied debts ranging from child support, to court costs and fines in low-level criminal cases such as marijuana possession, to defaults in student loan payments. The suspension of a driver’s license or a person’s professional license affects that person’s ability to be employed, and therefore affects their ability to repay the debt that caused the suspension in the first place. Add the sometimes steep fees required to get a license reinstated, and the fact that Georgia does not allow partial payment of the fees, and license suspension can become the first step into a cycle of debt, incarceration, unemployment, and more debt.


To avoid suspension of your license or worse, if you are behind in child support or student loan payments, contact the attorneys at Pak McRae Law, LLC.

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Pak & McRae Law

At Pak and McRae Law, LLC we provide straightforward, sincere criminal defense for local, state, and federal matters. Our team includes a former Assistant District Attorney, so we understand how prosecutors approach cases and will use those insights to benefit your case.

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