The City Attorney’s Office and the Seattle Municipal Court are offering a new relicensing program for drivers arrested for Driving While License Suspended Third Degree (DWLS3) or No Valid Driver’s License (NVOL).
DWLS3 is the most prosecuted misdemeanor in the state, with more than 300,000 citations issued each year. The large majority of these cases lead to conviction, which can jeopardize employability and credit ratings.
The redesigned program is aimed at the most economically marginalized drivers who fall behind in paying their Seattle-only traffic tickets. “The data and experience regarding DWLS3 cases clearly showed that prosecuting these offenses in the traditional manner required a great deal of time preparing the cases for filing and court hearings, assigning public defenders and holding court hearings when truly it is a crime of poverty,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. “This continuing cycle caused increased jail costs due to arrests from the bench warrants, multiple court hearings and an inefficient use of personnel resources.”
Eligibility for the program is carefully tailored for success: The individual must be a first-time participant; no accident or other criminal charges can be involved; and the person cannot be on deferred prosecution for a Driving While Under the Influence (DUI) gross misdemeanor.
A Court Ombudsperson assists those in debt to the Court who meet the stringent relicensing program guidelines (seattle.gov/courts/relicensing).
The new program, which began in February, is aimed at those people whose licenses have been suspended for not paying ticket fines. The ombudsperson’s services are available to individuals who have been charged with DWLS3 and those who have not been formally charged by the City. Participants promise to pay down their debt, maintain law abiding behavior, and not drive without a valid license or insurance while on the program.
Participants will be given two options: Pay off the tickets on a schedule or do community service, if eligible. It will not be mandatory that participants regain their driver’s licenses; it is encouraged, but optional. There are specified timeframes, and participants will be monitored for compliance while on the program.
Those who are currently charged with DWLS3 or No Valid Operators License (NVOL) may be able to have the charge dismissed by the Court if they obey all of the conditions.
For more information, contact Lillian Peck, Ombudsperson at Seattle Municipal Court, 206-615-0290, and Mindy Longanecker, Seattle City Attorney’s Office, 206-684-8525.