Lawmakers seek to restore driving rights

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 5:58 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB ) - Preliminary data shows that from January 1st to December 5th, 70,974 citations were issued in Florida to people driving without a valid drivers license because they couldn’t afford to pay a ticket or other fine.

Many end up in a vicious cycle when they keep driving, but this year there appears to be an appetite in the State Capitol to keep people driving and working.

The daily booking reports are seldom without someone caught driving on a suspended or revoked license, often for the second or third time.

“It’s constant,” said Alachua County Public Defender Stacy Scott. “For many reasons, people lose their license for financial hardships, and then they are unable to overcome that hurdle to get it back. Of course, we all know that in our state, you pretty much have to have a car to have a job.”

In the 80′s and 90′s lawmakers got tough with people who couldn’t pay their fines and gave clerks little leeway in collecting them.

“Statutes don’t allow us to change what the judge has assessed as a fine,” said Pinellas County Clerk of Courts Ken Burke.

“If you are on a payment plan and don’t make that payment, you lose your license,” said State Senator Doug Broxson.

Senator Broxson is pushing the clerks to find a way to keep people driving and working, so people can pay what they owe.

“All we are saying is we want them to have the flexibility to sit down with these folks, say what can you afford? Be realistic. Start a payment plan. And maybe revisit it in a year and see if you can pay more,” said Broxson.

The Clerks have told lawmakers they are still working on a plan, but a final proposal won’t come anytime soon.

“It’s not ready for this year, but perhaps next year,” said Pasco County Clerk of Courts Nikki Alvarez-Sowles.

But if real change is a year or more away, thousands of drivers will keep digging a deeper financial hole for themselves, making it all that much harder to find a way back to driving legally.

At any given time, there can be two million or more people with suspended licenses in Florida, with many of them still driving out of necessity.

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