Driver’s License Clinic Benefits Nearly 800 Locals
To most people, getting a driver’s license is a general inconvenience and when the process is over, the result is the ownership of a simple plastic card. However, to a person whose license has been revoked or suspended, the lack of that little plastic card can be a major impediment to their very livelihood. The power a driver’s license holds is much more unforgiving than we may know.
What does NOT having a driver’s license affect? And why are most driver’s licenses suspended? Not being able to drive affects your ability to get to work, take your child to school, attend health care appointments or obtain work. Lack of transportation can begin a domino effect into homelessness. Many people do not even know their license may be suspended until they are pulled over for a broken tail light and arrested and taken to jail for a suspended driver’s license. This is typically the person’s first entry into the criminal justice system, they plead guilty, have a record and that begins the cycle.
Nearly 2 million of more than 14 million registered drivers in Florida have a suspended license, many for offenses that have nothing to do with driving. The bulk of them were suspended for failing to pay child support, court fees, and fines. Reasons your license can be suspended include missing an auto insurance payment, not paying a red-light camera ticket, skipping traffic school, missing a court date, and/or writing a check that bounces.
Between court fees, fines, penalties, collection fees and other administrative fees, the road to a valid license becomes harder and harder. In some circumstances judges have the ability to waive fees and fines. Some suspensions are at the court’s discretion.
Poor people and those working hard, who live paycheck to paycheck are the most disparately impacted.
In response to our community and this critical issue, CLSMF spearheaded a Driver’s License Reinstatement Clinic in Orange County, in August. Teaming up with the Orange County Clerk of Court, the Department of Revenue, the Ninth Circuit Public Defender, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Bureau of Administrative Review, IDignity, and United Against Poverty, the two-day clinic helped Orange County residents understand the circumstances of their suspended or revoked driver’s license and how to reinstate them. CLSMF was also able to provide attendees with pro bono services primarily related to Family Law and Consumer Law. CLSMF and the partnering agencies were able to provide education to 769 attendees and reinstate 120 driver’s licenses.
With such a successful response from the community, the partner organizations have decided to host this event annually. Covering a large service area, CLSMF is looking for opportunities to replicate the event in other cities throughout Central Florida.