No License to Drive - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

No License to Drive

^ Judge Paula Hanington ^ Judge Paula Hanington

November 7, 2002

Albany-- Driving a car isn't a right, it's a privilege. And if you don't obey the rules, you lose that privilege. In Georgia, more than 800,000 driver's licenses are on suspension. Many drivers don't know or don't care that their license is revoked, and continue to drive.

"You got in trouble, you know you got in trouble, and this isn't the first time down this road." Judge Paula Hanington reprimands a man facing a D.U.I. charge, "Mr. Frasier you've had 13 D.U.I.'s--this is your 14th D.U.I."

Besides jail time, steep fines, and probation, his license is suspended for one year--a common punishment for D.U.I. offenses. Hannington says, "Your liberty is butting heads with my responsibility." In Albany Municipal Court, roughly 20 times a week, Judge Hanington suspends licenses due to D.U.I.'s, driving without insurance, multiple traffic offenses, and, more than anything else, being caught driving on a suspended license.

Judge Hanington says, "Quite a bit, unfortunately, a lot of that goes on and it's a big problem in the community."

"Very often, I would have to estimate at least one out of every five cars we stop the driver's license is suspended." Trooper Scott McClure catches people driving on suspended licenses daily, "I'll ask them why they are driving. They know their license is suspended. A lot just don't care, they believe going to work, the store, over-rides the fact that their license is suspended."

Without a license for almost a year, Paul Mials has been relying on friends and family to get him around, "Finding people to take you back and forth to work, so you don't drive, taking care of shopping, going out with friends." Now, he is hoping to get his license renewed, "It's definitely a problem you do not want to go through."

But, its a problem for Mials that likely will not end anytime soon, "I was caught driving under a suspended license near Valdosta." Mials was caught driving with his license suspended , and will soon be going before another judge to face the consequences. Mials says, "Mandatory jail time plus fines and fees for court, its really a big deal."

Trooper McClure says, "Catching them is a problem." There is only one way to know if the driver next to you is behind the wheel illegally. Trooper McClure says, "Stopping them for expired tags, seat belt offenses, motor vehicle accidents."

When they are caught driving on a suspended license, the punishment is steep. Judge Hanington says, "On the first offense, 2 days jail, $650.00 fine, and the license is suspended for one year additional." And, for repeat offenders, the punishment gets harsher, in hopes of swaying people from driving without a license.

Over a 13 day period this summer, the Georgia State Patrol caught more than 2,500 people driving on a suspended license.

Posted at 2:45 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com

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