Hundreds of thousands of Miami-Dade County drivers with suspended licenses due to unpaid fines could be back on the road soon.
Miami-Dade County's Driver's License Suspension Task Force released its final report Monday after months of reviewing debt-based driver license suspensions.
“With driver’s license suspensions, we turn every year, tens of thousands of people into criminals because we’re charging them with the offense only because they cannot pay," said Carlos Martinez, a Miami-Dade public defender
The task force announced administrative and technical changes that are already underway to help the over 600,000 Miami-Dade drivers that currently have suspended licenses because of unpaid dues.
Officials said many of these 600,000 drivers are low-income residents who haven’t been able to maintain jobs because they can’t drive due to these unpaid debts.
With the help of Commissioner Eileen Higgins, the task force was created to look at what can be done to change this.
“It’s ridiculous. The situation for so many residents, the fact that they can’t legally drive…by the way, we know that some of them do drive without their license because it’s only the way for them to get to work," Higgins said. "This is a major impact that holds people back. We’ve got to fix it. The solutions are there.”
Marq Mitchell said he experienced this firsthand.
“The work that was undertaken by the task force will have a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of local residents like me who were impacted by driver's license suspensions for unpaid court debt," said Mitchell, the CEO and founder of Chainless Change.
This problem can also take a toll on the wallets of those with a valid license.
“As a result of having 600,000 suspended licenses, everybody’s insurance rates in our communities are through the roof because if you’re in an accident, you have an almost 50% chance of being involved in an accident with somebody not only without a license but without insurance. So those costs get spread to people with valid licenses," said Judge Steve Leifman of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida.
The recommendations in this report are up for a vote Tuesday at the county commission. If it goes through, the first step will be community outreach.
The task force was approved in October 2020 by the Miami Dade County Board of County Commissioners to look at solutions to the thousands of people in the county that had their licenses suspended.
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