THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:
MY DRIVER'S LICENSE IS SUSPENDED YOU SAY ..... TIME FOR A CHANGE, WE SAY .....
There are approximately 1,800,000 drivers that are licensed to operate a motor vehicle in Miami-Dade County. Of that number, 550,000 have a SUSPENDED LICENSE. You did not read that incorrectly. Nearly 3 out of every 10 drivers on the road are breaking the law everyday in our "Magic City".
The Miami Herald wrote a story and you can read all about it here.
What can we do about this problem? Change the law. What is causing all of these suspensions? Is it because of unsafe driving? NO. Amazingly, 77% of all those persons that have a suspended license, have it because they failed to pay a ticket or a fine on time. Traffic tickets, court costs, and child support payments are the main culprit of this disease. The remaining 23% of the suspended drivers' licenses' are because of actual bad driving issues.
Judge Leifman said it well: “We’re putting an additional tax burden on a group of individuals that can’t afford it,” Leifman said. It’s “criminalizing their behavior when all they did was commit a civil infraction and didn’t have the money to pay it.”
The cycle begins when someone gets a traffic citation and then does not pay that ticket within the thirty days as required by law. They get pulled over at some later point, (usually for something as minor as a burnt out tail light) and the result is that they can be arrested for Driving With a Suspended License (DWLS). Now the arresting officer is going to spend the next several hours of their shift booking someone who essentially is being jailed because they couldn't afford the original citation. So, now the person has a new court date for that DWLS, (there license is still suspended), and now the Judge piles on by adding fines and court costs to the no contest plea of the defendant for their DWLS. And the cycle continues.
What to do?
According to the Herald story, other states have moved away from suspending licenses for not paying traffic tickets. Why not Florida, why not in Miami - because it's all about the Benjamins, of course. In 2014, four collection agencies contracted by the Clerk have the job of attempting to collect the outstanding fees and costs due to the Clerk. These four companies get a 40% vig on top of what was originally owed. Last year the four collection agencies collected a whopping $19 million dollars for the Clerk's office, providing these four companies with $7.5 million in fees.
Because of the large amount of money coming in like it does, the State Legislature funds the Clerk's office with less money. So there is no way that the Clerks' offices want to change the system and forego having a license suspended when someone fails to simply pay a traffic citation. It is a vicious cycle.
It seems like FACDL's statewide lobbying group should get together with an elected legislator, say maybe State House Rep Katie Edwards, and get a bill through the legislature that can effect positive change. It is simply insane to keep doing the same thing over and over and not try something new and different when there are more than a half-million drivers in Miami-Dade County alone who have a suspended license.
RED LIGHT CAMERA UPDATE ......
Judge Leifman informs us that he hopes to have an ORDER prepared by the end of the month - I assume he meant August - of 2015.
JUDGE LEIFMAN WINS ANOTHER AWARD .....
And, speaking of Judge Leifman, according to crack reporter Julie Kay at the DBR, Leifman is moving on up in the world. You can read the entire story here. Congrats to Judge Leifman - well deserved.
"Steven Leifman, associate administrative judge of the Miami-Dade County Court criminal division, has been named the National Center for State Courts' recipient of the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. will present the award to Leifman during a ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Nov. 19."
"Leifman is being recognized for his groundbreaking work helping mentally ill people in the criminal justice system."
Congrats to Judge Leifman - well deserved.
It's just way too hot outside - time for a dip in the:
CAPTAIN OUT .......