Nearly 300,000 Washington drivers have had their licenses suspended for not paying multiple traffic tickets, and if they want to get them back, they have to run a gauntlet that includes collection agents and a patchwork system of courts.
Many have now turned to King County re-licensing court to begin to dig out of the mess they find themselves in. Like drug court, it's a diversion program for people who have been stopped by an officer while driving on a license that was suspended for failure to pay traffic tickets. If charged with Driving While License Suspended, contact your Seattle Criminal Lawyers at SQ Attorneys immediately.
Maggie Nave, head of the District Court unit of the King County Prosecutor's office, said re-licensing court frees up prosecutors for more serious cases. But it also gives a suspended driver a way to get their license back sooner.
After a driver makes a few payments, the court lifts the hold on his license, which means he can get it back while he continues to pay off his tickets.
Court administrators in King and Pierce counties say that in any year, up to 25 percent of traffic tickets end up in collections. Re-licensing court is a cheaper alternative, but it's only available in a few counties.
Judge Mark Eide presides over King County re-licensing court, but he has no authority to reduce and consolidate fines from most of the county's 39 cities, much less another county.
"It is rather inefficient to have people go to multiple different courts to try to take care of getting their license back," Eide said.
Suspended license cases consume a lot of court resources. One-third of misdemeanor court filings in Washington are for driving with a suspended license for failure to pay citations, according to a 2008 study by Washington's Office of Public Defense.
"It's a victimless crime and it's a crime of poverty," says Bob Boruchowitz, a former longtime public defender turned law professor at Seattle University.
He said there's evidence that minorities are more likely to have their licenses suspended for not paying their traffic fines.
Options include working off the ticket through community service, or getting on a payment plan.
Don Pierce, who heads the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, supports diversion programs, but not decriminalization. He said some scofflaws need the threat of jail.
"If we totally decriminalize they can simply tear the ticket up right in front of the officer's face and drive away and there's nothing we can do about it and I don't think that serves the general public," he said.
If you or a loved one is faced with a criminal charge in Western Washington, you deserve the assistance of a reputable and qualified Seattle criminal attorney who will relentlessly defend your case. You deserve a Seattle criminal defense lawyer who has an intimate understanding of Washington’s criminal laws and the legal issues that could win your case. You deserve a Seattle criminal lawyer who is not afraid to stand up against the prosecution and aggressively fight for your rights and interests. SQ Attorneys is the right Western Washington law firm for the job. Call for a free initial consultation – (206) 441.0900 (Seattle); (425) 998-8384 (Eastside) – it will be the best decision you make all day.