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Nov 19, 2013 9:54 PM by Nichole Szemerei

Suspended licenses don't stop some Tucson drivers

TUCSON -- When you have a suspended license, you're not supposed to drive, but what's stopping you from risking it?

Every month there are hundreds who end up in court with a driving with suspended license charge. From January to October of this year more than 6,000 people had charges filed! The numbers are steadily rising, too. You can see this in the bar graph below.

We went to Tucson City Court to see how many people would walk out the doors on a suspended license, walk down the street, get in their cars and then drive away.

"Did you guys just get suspended licenses? - Yes.
And you're still driving? - Yes.
And why is that? - Because life needs to go on.
Life needs to go on, so it's ok to break the law? - Not really."

"Why are you driving again? - She has diabetes, she's having difficulty.
You know you're not supposed to be driving though, but you're going to drive anyway? - She has a medical condition.
I understand that she can't drive, but is there someone else who can?
Do you normally drive on a suspended license? - Not really."

Some people flat out admit they break the law.

"I'm conscious of it but I don't have another option I have to go to court or else I'd be arrested anyway," says one driver.

"Life's a lot harder without it, which is common sense and common sense is why drive if you don't have a license but people have to do what they got to do," says a man who calls himself the ‘Suspended License King.' "I've just been in trouble for it many, many times."
How many times? "I don't know, maybe 30-35 times."
That's amazing! So you can get your license suspended or get in trouble for it, 30-35 times and not end up in jail? "I guess through a lifetime. Oh I've been in jail quite a few times for it."

Tucson City Court Judge, Antonio Riojas isn't surprised.

"I think it's possible, 30-35 times is probably at the far end of the range, but I could see it happening."

In April of last year, the legislature reduced penalties for driving with suspended licenses in Arizona. This could be one reason for the increase in charges.

"I think a lot of it is because TPD has stepped up its enforcing of traffic matters too, so you're seeing more and more people," says Riojas.

The question then becomes, "is it dangerous to have this many people driving in Tucson with suspended licenses?"

"I think the driving with suspended license in and of itself doesn't make them dangerous, depends why it's suspended. for instance, if it's suspended because they have a DUI, yes they're probably dangerous, suspended because they have a lot of points on their record, probably yes, if it's because they haven't paid a fine, not necessarily so," says Riojas.

According to a AAA study, one in every eight drivers involved in a fatal accident, didn't have a valid license. Those drivers are also twice as likely to have had blood alcohol content over the legal limit.

But, not everyone with a suspended license is breaking the law.

"Its $250 a whop for diversion, you know what I mean, and 4 hours of classes so, I 'm not trying to waste my time and money. I learned my lesson. I just have to go pay my bills," says one driver.

"You're just getting in more trouble, adding up more money, risking going to jail and so forth," says another driver.

Just ask the ‘Suspended License King.'

"It's a better idea to try to find that other means until you're able to get your license back because you just keep digging a hole deeper and deeper and deeper."

If you have a story for the News 4 Tucson Investigators, we'd like to hear from you. Just email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call 520-955-4444.

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