Thousands in York County Losing their licenses years after their convictions because of clerical error
Thousands of people in York County are receiving letters from PennDOT that they are losing their licenses for six months. But, it’s not for something they did recently. It’s for drug crimes they committed in some cases, years ago.
Josh Ferree plead guilty to a marijuana possession charge back in 2009. He thought he had served his time. “I did my time, I completed my probation,” said Ferree. That is until now. “This is an official notice of suspension of your driving privileges,” said Ferree as he read the letter from PennDot. He recently received the notice from PennDOT about the situation. He drives for a living so the news has been devastating. “I am looking at it like, 2009? My heart sunk. The first thing I thought was how can they even do this?” said Ferree.
Ferree’s attorney, Korey Leslie said Josh is not the only one. Leslie is representing several people who are now losing their licenses. “This is just a complete breakdown in the system with the York County Clerk of Courts Office submitting their required paperwork,” said Leslie.
In Ferree’s case, he thought he had worked out a plea deal and would not have to surrender his license. The law was later clarified and included the charge he plead guilty to. “That law was clarified in 2008, to say that even conspiracies or solicitations could result in a suspension. So, the suspension would still apply and in this case, but should have taken effect five years ago,” said Leslie.
York County Clerk of Courts Don O’Shell said his office wasn’t aware that certain drug violations came with a six-month suspension. Because of that, they didn’t report those drug violations to PennDOT for years.
“Clerks were under the impression that it was only delivery charges that were eligible for the suspensions,” said O’Shell. Now his office is trying to fix the mistake. They are going back through records dating back to 2004. “It’s upsetting a lot of people but you have to do what the law requires. You have to do the right thing at the end of the day regardless of what the consequences are politically,” said O’Shell.
Although people can appeal, Leslie said it’s unlikely that they will win because the mistake was not caused by anyone at PennDOT. “Since there was no breakdown on their end they are going to stand by their decision to suspend these people`s driving privileges,” said Leslie. “They’re not violating any constitutional rights because driving is a privilege, it’s not a right.”
So far more than 2,000 people have learned that they are losing their licenses. That number could reach more than 5,000 when O’Shell’s office gets through all of their records. “from 2008 to current, there is 2,553 individuals, some are current but most are not. I’m thinking once we go back all the way to 2004 it might be as high as 5,000,” said O’Shell.
They expect to notify everyone within the next month and a half.