Jeff Brandes plans review of state’s broken drivers license suspension policy

suspended licence

A month ago, the Miami Herald reported that most Florida motorists whose drivers licenses were   suspended in recent years simply failed to pay fines, not because of driving while under the influence citations.

Failure to pay such fees accounted for 77 percent of all license suspensions from 2012 through 2015, the paper learned. The story showed how Miami-Dade County’s bank accounts have benefited from the new revenue. The trend, though, has led to a crushing cycle of consequences for those who can’t or don’t pay such fines that leads to more fees, tickets, criminal charges and sometimes even jail

St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes read that story, and said he thinks the state’s policy on driver license suspensions is broken. Far too many Florida residents are losing their driving privileges for reasons unrelated to their driving behavior, said. In a letter to members of the Senate Transportation Committee, which he chairs, he writes, “This pressing problem requires a complete and thorough review by the Legislature.”

He has scheduled a discussion on the issue when the Legislature returns to Tallahassee next week for committee hearings in the run-up to the 2016 Session. He’s scheduled next Wednesday for  representatives from the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles to discuss the  driver license suspensions before his committee. It will also hear from representatives of the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers as well as the Florida Public Defender Association.

In addition, he has opened the meeting for any state senators to attend.

In the Herald story, Miami-Dade Judge Steve Leifman, who presides over traffic and criminal cases, says the suspensions are so frequent now that county officials consider it more like an extra tax than a public safety measure. “We’re putting an additional tax burden on a group of individuals that can’t afford it,” Leifman told the paper. It’s “criminalizing their behavior when all they did was commit a civil infraction and didn’t have the money to pay it.”

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected]


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