Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels wants to save money by making driver licenses optional:
One of the major savings was in the Law Department, where city officials expect to save about $450,000 by converting the least-serious crime of driving without a license into an infraction. City Attorney Tom Carr said that one crime represents 30 percent of the department's caseload.Anybody who both (a) does something dumb enough to lose their driver license and (b) can't afford a lawyer, isn't the best candidate to pay their bills on time either. It wouldn't take very many additional accidents before the cost of this leniency exceeded $450,000. And I'd be willing to bet that a fair number of these incompetent indigent drivers are also uninsured.
Today, if someone is issued a ticket for driving with a suspended license but doesn't appear for a court hearing, a warrant is issued and the driver is jailed. Under the proposed change, drivers would receive a ticket but would not be booked into jail or prosecuted on a criminal charge. Unpaid tickets would be sent to a collection agency.
"We wanted to take the cases out of the criminal-justice system," Carr said.
By changing the offense to an infraction, the Law Department expects to save $232,000 a year in jail costs and $219,000 in public-defender costs, since the drivers wouldn't be entitled to a public defender to contest an infraction.
A better solution, I think, would be to impound the vehicles of anybody caught without a valid license. But that policy would never go over in Seattle, because you know that somebody would oppose it on the grounds that it discriminates against poor people and "undocumented workers".Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at March 07, 2004 07:00 AM