Hundreds turn out for driver’s license restoration clinic
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Slowly the woman walked to take her place in front of judge Stephen Everett inside the Leon County Court Annex. She greeted him politely, then stated her case.
“I need a chance,” Carolyn Threatt told the judge. “Take some of the money away.”
Everett read off the list of charges, all stemming from traffic violations. He asked her a few questions about the charges that led to her license being suspended, then gave her an option to reduce some of the $4,000 that she owed in fees.
The option she ended up with, she will pay a $250 fee to begin restoration of her driver’s license, while on a payment plan.
“That’s what I needed to hear,” she told the court.
Threatt was one of hundreds of people who showed up this past Friday to a day-long clinic intended to restore driving privileges. About 250 preregistered, but by the end of the day more than 400 showed up and forced extension of the event to more than two hours past the scheduled ending time.
The department of motor vehicle, clerk of the court, department of revenue, as well as the department of highway safety and motor vehicle were on the spot to expedite the recovery process.
Grant Slayden, trial court administrator for the second judicial circuit, also had staffers assisting with registration outside of the court.
Everett and another judge, Layne Smith, alternated on the bench throughout the processing of cases.
The two judges decided to give traffic offenders the chance to begin working on getting their license back. About eight people had their license restored on the spot midway through the day.
A second clinic is scheduled for Oct. 13 with the same two judges. Smith said it’s an effort to help an estimated more than 1,000 people in the county who have had their licenses taken away or suspended over not being able to pay traffic fines.
“Some of them had given up hope,” Smith said. “You walk away from here; maybe not with your license, but with the prescription on what you need to do to get your license.”
Smith pointed to the case of a young mother to illustrate the value of the clinic. She left the court, where she had showed up with her children, with her status changed from habitual to a simpler charge of driving with suspended license.
She also took the option of doing community service in exchange for a clean record.
“We feel good about that,” Smith said. “That helped somebody get their driver’s license back. It helps to get employment or keep employment or be able to do things with their kids.”
Others weren’t as fortunate as the young lady with children. In particular, the court couldn’t help anyone who showed up with multiple DUI charges. There were even some Leon County residents with Georgia charges that were turned away because of the jurisdiction of their cases.
Smith was glad they helped the ones they could. Especially the ones who couldn’t find a job without transportation.
“What I try to do is pick them up, dust them off and get them back in the game,” Smith said, “They’re far better off employed.”