Tallahassee judge sets driver’s license restoration clinic


Judge Stephen Everett

Judge Layne Smith

By Jakeira Gilbert
Outlook writer

For years driving with a suspended or revoked license has created quite a conundrum for judges and attorneys.

Judges Layne Smith and Stephen Everett, who have seen a majority of drivers who violate traffic rules, want to find an answer. They’ve scheduled two clinics that they hope will result in an effective resolution.

The first clinic is set for July 7 at the Leon County Court Annex, with another scheduled for Oct. 13.

“This stood out as being the greatest need that would have the biggest impact,” Smith said, explaining his reason for planning the clinic.

At the heart of the judges’ search for answers is the complications that not having a driver’s license create for violators.

“Think about it,” Smith said. “If somebody doesn’t have a driver’s license, it’s hard for them to get a job or to keep a job. If they get one, they are often under-employed.”

In many cases, the problem tends to get worse when a violator continues to drive after the first run-in with law enforcement, sometimes escalating their problems to a felony for being a habitual driver without a license.

That’s a scenario that defense attorney Mutaqee Akbar is familiar with.  He praised plans for the clinic, saying it should provide information to offenders who don’t know all of their options for getting their license restored.

However, he said offenders have some responsibility in the matter too.

“Often it might be that one ticket that’s $150 that you can’t pay,” said Akbar, explaining how one offense could spiral. “Then that one ticket turns into another ticket for driving without a license, then that turns into a driving with a suspended license, and all of those costs and fees turn into a wheel that just keeps spinning.”

Often offenders are low income minorities who don’t have a bus route and sometimes have to rely on others. It’s one of the questions that Akbar hopes the clinic answers.

“As a community, what I’m hoping to do by this is to get everybody together that would need to be gathered,” Smith said. “I mean; come in let’s talk to you about whether it’s a one-step issue or multiple issues — precisely what it is you’d have to do to qualify and to be eligible to get your license back.”

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