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After inmate releases, Rep. Nicole Miller studies reinstatement of drivers’ licenses

Oklahoma State Rep. Nicole Miller.  Official photo
Oklahoma State Rep. Nicole Miller. Official photo

Staff Report

A recent press release from the Oklahoma House of Representatives detailed an interim study held on steps taken toward easing steps for formerly incarcerated persons regaining drivers’ licenses.

Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, hosted the interim study before the House Public Safety Committee. The study examined possible steps that could be taken to help get drivers licenses reinstated after being involved in the justice system.

Rep. Miller examined the impact possessing a valid drivers license has on a person’s life after they conclude time in the justice system. The study also focused on the current process in place for those whose licenses have been suspended or expired.

Introducing the hearing, Miller asked, “Are these laws working as intended? Are we getting the results that we expected? Does the law need to be reformed to ensure that there is a less cumbersome path for drivers license reinstatement while still preserving the safety of the public?”

The issue came to Miller’s attention through Judy Mullen Hopper, a constituent whose stepson went 15 years without a license after his was suspended due to a simple drug possession (now considered a misdemeanor under State Question 780 and House Bill 1269). The stepson’s lack of a license was only resolved after payment of high fines and fees, hours of course instruction and other steps taking six months, Hopper said.

A second speaker, Liz Dunaway, participates in ReMerge, a diversion program to help pregnant women and mothers transition from incarceration into society. She described attempts to get her license reinstated after two DUI charges in 2011. She wasn’t made aware of a 10-day window from the charge of her first DUI to appeal suspension.

Dunaway couldn’t get a license until she had a breathalyzer installed on a vehicle, but she couldn’t get a vehicle until she had a license. It was difficult to find work without a car or the ability to drive, which made paying her $1,800 license reinstatement fee all the more stressful.

Erin Brewer shared her experience as a second chance employer in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown, where she owned RedPin and witnessed the struggle her employees endured to become a contributing member of society again. RedPin employed about 160 people a year who walked from nearby halfway houses. She found the employees consistently reliable, eager and hardworking.

Other speakers included Kate Barbarick, an education and employment coordinator with ReMerge; Doug Young, director of driver compliance at the Dept. of Public Safety; Sean Wallace, legislative liaison for Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Derek M. Cohen, director of Right on Crime and the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy foundation; and Tricia Everest, chair of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority.

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