Yesterday, January 6, 2016, Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) announced SPB 7046, related to penalties and fees, has been filed. The proposed legislation will dramatically reform the driver license suspension and revocation process in Florida, and follows a series of hearings by Senator Brandes in the Transportation Committee on the topic.
“Losing a driver license is a devastating penalty which most heavily impacts those with the least ability to afford it. For years the state has piled on driver license suspensions as an additional sanction for various non-driving related activity,” stated Senator Brandes. “This legislation will help thousands of Floridians who are caught in a relentless cycle of debt within the legal system. This bill will reduce a major burden on our courts from license suspensions, and it will give many Floridians a means to get back to work.”
The proposal follows media reports last year detailing the substantial number of driver license suspensions occurring annually in Florida. Following those reports, Senator Brandes and the Transportation Committee held several hearings and heard testimony by the State Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, elected Public Defenders, and various Clerks of Court. This proposal is a result of those hearings, and it is designed to radically reduce the number of suspended and revoked driver licenses. The bill establishes an alternative system for sanctions for the more than 1.2 million driver license suspensions annually.
SPB 7046 removes suspension and revocation penalties for certain non-driving-related offenses. Individuals who would have their licenses suspended today for many financial related issues will instead be issued a hardship license. The reform package also reforms a controversial surcharge in law for fines or fees which are sent to collections, and clearly establishes the right of a defendant in financial hardship to enter into community service as an alternative method of payment. Finally, the bill eliminates the felony criminal charge for a third or subsequent driving while license is suspended or revoked resulting from a defendant’s inability to pay a fine or fee.