Not knowing is a big obstacle to license restoration

Leon County Judge Lane Smith told the audience at a driver’s license restoration session that he and other judges don’t have flexibility on the law.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

The plight that Troy Haines Sr., faces isn’t unique.

Haines is facing what seems like insurmountable child support payments that he has to enduring while he tries to find a way to satisfy his obligation. He can’t have a driver’s license until he does.

There are hundreds more if not thousands like Haines who are living with the perplexity of not being able to get to a job so they could make child support payment, said Gwen Marshall, Leon County Clerk of Court ad Comptroller.

Meanwhile, he pays a licensed driver $10 daily to get him to work whenever he could get a job.

“Unfortunately,” Marshall said, “it’s a perpetual cycle and it’s hard to get out once you get caught up in the system.”

Marshall and members of her staff participated in an information sharing session last Thursday night at Bethel Family Life Center. Information was given to several people, some who for the first time were addressing their cases.

The session, in addition to a similar one held in Woodville last Saturday was brainchild of Don Tolliver, vice president of the local National Action Network, and Jacqueline Perkins of Team Excellence International. Those who wanted to address their cases signed up with the promise that they would attend an Oct. 12 session to begin paying to clear their driving records.

Haines signed up, figuring that it might be his best opportunity to begin resolving child support cases that resulted in his license being suspended. Haines, 48, said his case is based in Leesburg and that has led to being arrested a few times.

Adrianne Carrol (center), an agent at the Clerk of Court office, assistants two clients with signing up for help to restore their driver’s license.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

He felt like he found some reprieve at the information session.

“I don’t know that if it will be helpful down there (in Leesburg) but they can give me some help,” he said. “I’m going to pursue it and pressure it out.”

In several of the cases, the offenders often don’t know that their fines begin the minute the court makes a decision, Marshall said.

“A lot of people don’t read or look at the news so they don’t know what they can do to help themselves,” Tolliver said.  “There are lots of services and information sessions like what we are doing today to make sure we take it to the streets.”

One of the things not known by people with minor traffic cases is that they could trade their fines for community hours. Each $10 owed is worth an hour of community work. However, as simple as that seems several, cases have escalated to huge fees because of no-shows, said Leon County Judge Lane Smith who also made a presentation.

Judges can’t do more than follow the law in most cases, he said.

“We don’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of what we are able to do,” Smith said. “So there is the matter of getting the message out and getting people there to be prepared.”