State legislators looking to decriminalize driving with a suspended license
YAKIMA, Wash.- It the most common crime that police have to deal with: Driving with a suspended license.
Trooper Sarah Claysen with Washington State patrol said they pull people over for it every day, which can add up over the course of a year.
“In the last year, we did stop over a thousand suspended drivers between Sunnyside and Yakima,” she said. “So, it is obviously something that is a pretty big issue.”
And while it's classified as a criminal offense, as of right now. It usually gets downgraded to a fine once it gets to court.
That's why two Washington State senators are trying to decriminalize it.
In a news release, Senators Joe fain and David Frockt said prosecuting people for driving without a license cost the state costing the state more than $42 million in 2015 alone.
In Yakima county, it takes up more time than prosecutor Joseph Brusic would like.
“Right now, we have a full morning dedicated one time a week for in fact just these license suspended in the third so it takes a fair amount of the court time,” he said.
Brusic said decriminalizing it would make it easier for people to stay safe on the road and avoid having to have fees pile up.
“The whole goal for driving without a license three (3rd degree) is to really entice them to get the license,” he said. “We want drivers in Yakima County to be licensed drivers.”
Claysen said even after you pay off your fees, you will still have a re-issue fee with the Department of Licensing.
She said it's hard to get out once you fall into the cycle of fees, but it's the only way to make sure you don't get in trouble again on the road.
The proposed bill is expected to receive a public hearing later this month before the senate law and justice committee.