An update on a mistake that has affected thousands of people in York County. They recently received letters from PennDOT notifying them that they are losing their license for six months, for drug crimes that happened as far back as 2004.
A majority have reported that they were never aware that a license suspension was part of their sentence. “We have only had one person, out of the hundreds of phone calls we have gotten to this point, said that they were aware and it just never came,” said York County Clerk of Courts Don O’Shell.
It is a mistake that O’Shell hopes never happens again. “It’s a shared responsibility between all of the criminal justice partners; the defense attorneys, the defender, the district attorney and the court, in communicating clearly what will happen or should happen with regard to a defendants sentence. That’s where we failed a bit,” said O’Shell.
O’Shell said his office was not aware that certain drug convictions came with a six-month license suspension. Because of that, they did not report the convictions to PennDOT for years.
O’Shell’s office is going through cases dating back to 2004 to fix the mistake. He has come up with a plan he hopes will help. “We amend the guilty plea colloquy and put on there, has your attorney discussed with you possible drivers license sanctions? Yes or no,” said O’Shell. “My contention is that 2/3 of our cases involve license suspensions, so since that is a majority of our caseload, we should address that particular consequence in court, and on the record.”
But the plan is not an easy sell. York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said the paperwork is already 14 pages long. “I think it would be too confusing, I think it would take up too much time. We are pressed in the criminal courts as it is to get things accomplished in a timely fashion. I think people should be aware of theirs rights and I encourage people to go to lawyers and ask them,” said Kearney.
A number of people plan to appeal their delayed license suspensions. York County Prothonotary Pamela Lee said the number of appeals have more than doubled.
License suspension appeals breakdown:
July 2013 – 13
July 2014 – 27
August 1-15, 2013 – 7
August 1-15, 2014 – 17
**Of the 17 filed in August of 2014, 14 of them are related to the older cases being updated by the Clerk of Courts. Most of these cases will begin to be heard on October 29th, with additional hearings on October 30th, November 5th, 19th, and December 10th.