Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Local News

March 8, 2014

Bill ends automatic license suspensions for many crimes

INDIANAPOLIS — Unpaid parking fines, falling behind on child support, drunken driving: So many offenses trigger a suspended driver’s license in Indiana that more than a half-million Hoosiers have lost their driving privileges.

In fact, driving on a suspended license is the most commonly charged offense, prosecutors say.

A bill passed by the House and Senate hopes to keep more drivers legally on the road, supporters say, by eliminating most automatic license suspensions for non-traffic offenses and giving judges more leeway over how the penalty is used. The bill also creates a “special use” license with strict conditions such as the use of technology that monitors when certain drivers get behind the wheel.

Supporters say the law goes a long way toward helping the high number of Hoosiers with suspended licenses get back on the road legally without compromising public safety.

There are about five million licensed drivers in Indiana and more than 556,000 who currently have their licenses suspended, according to the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

“We’re not taking away the authority of judges to suspend the licenses of drivers who are dangerous and shouldn’t be on the road,” said Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, who authored the bill. “What we are doing is giving them the authority to fashion a sentence that fits that person.”

In Indiana, scores of crimes carry the penalty of lost driving privileges. Your license is suspended if you get caught driving drunk. You can also have your license pulled if you’re a teenager caught in a tavern or an adult behind on child support payments.

Most drug-related convictions also revoke driving privileges due to a 1993 federal law that required states to suspend licenses of convicted drug offenders.

Police and prosecutors say license suspensions are tagged onto so many crimes that it’s easy to lose a driver’s license but hard to gain one back — especially if you’re poor and can’t afford quickly mounting fines, fees and insurance costs.

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