Under Florida law, people who are convicted of drunk driving or accumulate too many points on their driving records will see their driver’s license suspended. This makes sense given that these types of offenses are driving-related and pose a very real risk to public safety.
It may surprise people to learn, however, that this rather harsh punishment isn’t just reserved for those guilty of otherwise questionable conduct behind the wheel. Indeed, driver license suspension is a possible punishment for everything from drug offenses and truancy to graffiti and even the failure to pay child support.
In fact, recent reports reveal that not only have state lawmakers expanded the number of offenses for which driver’s license suspension is an option by 20 from 1996 to 2010, but also that 1.5 million Floridians have seen their licenses suspended for non-driving offenses.
The problem with this approach, say critics, is that it results in a sort of poverty spiral that effectively causes more problems than it actually solves.
For example, if a person loses their license for failure to make child support payments, their ability to get to and from work, or look for work, becomes far more limited. Indeed, it’s possible that a person might even lose their job altogether, such that the chances of securing child support are now even more slim.
The good news is that the problem has not escaped the notice of state lawmakers, some of whom are now committed to finding a solution. Indeed, the Senate Transportation Committee is currently conducting a major review to examine the scope of the problem and consider solutions.
One idea currently being discussed is the creation of a special category of license enabling people to drive only to their places of employment.
“So in lieu of removing people’s driver’s license, can we make the penalty a business purpose only license, so they can get back and forth to work, so they can make the child support payment,” said the committee chair Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).
It remains to be seen what solutions the Senate can come up with to this very real problem, one that affects both parents and kids.
What are your thoughts on this subject?