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Legislation would help those receiving delayed license suspensions

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Thousands of people in York County have or soon will receive a notice that their license will be temporarily suspended. But it’s for certain drug crimes committed in the past, some as far back as ten years ago. The York County Clerk of Courts Don O’Shell has publicly taken responsibility for the mistake. He said his office was not aware that certain drug offenses carried a license suspension and therefore, did not notify PennDOT. Representative Stan Saylor says many more are to blame.

"You can’t point the finger at any one person. Everyone is responsible for communicating changes in laws," said Rep. Saylor, Pa House Majority Whip. "We realized that it was a problem in almost every county in Pennsylvania, where clerk of courts across the state had not reported drug offenses," said Rep. Saylor.

Rep. Saylor has sponsored a bill that would allow people affected by this mistake to get an occupational or 'bread and butter' license, so they can drive to work.

"I don't want to see people losing their jobs, I don't want to destroy families because of this issue. So, we as politicians and as legislative agencies need to come together to solve the problem," said Rep. Saylor.

Saylor's bill would also help with future oversight within the court system. He is pushing for support in the House and Senate. He expects the bill to make it to the governor's desk within the next two days so people who have already serving their sentences can apply as soon as possible.

What happened
The mistake came to light after a driver hit and killed a pedestrian in Philadelphia this past spring. The driver should have had a suspended license because of a drug offense. The incident prompted action within the Philadelphia Clerk of Courts once it was discovered that these offenses were not being reported.

York County Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell saw this and decided to audit all records of criminal cases since he took office in January 2004.

O’Shell determined that the office had failed to send cases to the state Transportation Department, and he forwarded the old cases to PennDOT. This action resulted in 5,000 license suspensions issued to York County drivers upwards of 10 years after their convictions.

Bipartisan support
State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York, introduced an amendment to the bill dealing with the specifics of the occupational license. “This amendment will allow for any individual impacted by this administrative error to obtain an Occupational Limited License,” Schreiber said. “It is not the driver’s fault that the information was not submitted in a timely manner. They have paid their debt to society and have moved on with life and employment, a license suspension now will jeopardize that.”

Representative Seth Grove (R) 196th District also represents part of York County. Rep. Grove is a co-sponsor of the bill.

"We're trying to correct it and trying to play the middle role where they are doing their sentences, but insuring people can still go to work, still be a productive member of society, still can put a roof over their heads and feed their children," said Rep. Grove.