If there’s one thing everyone seemingly agrees on, it’s that we need to do more to help people coming out of the justice system—whether that’s from prison or just a conviction that didn’t lead to a prison sentence. We all seem to agree that the State should offer services to those who need help reintegrating into society or changing their behavior. At the very least, the State should get out of the way.
A good first step would be to stop revoking licenses for non-driving offenses. With no nexus to public safety, revoking a person’s driver’s license for a non-driving offense makes them less likely to obtain a good job. In addition to the negative effect this has on the individual and their family, it also impedes their ability to pay fines, fees, and/or restitution. The fact is, for most people, having a license is invaluable for work and other necessities.
Fortunately, Rep. Nicole Miller has filed a bill (HB 1795) this session to stop revoking licenses for most non-driving offenses. Arguably, there are a few offenses still permitted in the bill that I might carve out (such as a failure to pay for gas), but it’s a great step in the right direction. The bill has already passed through the House Public Safety Committee on a 7-0 vote and should be heard on the House floor soon. Should it pass the House, it will go to the Senate where Majority Floor Leader Kim David has signed on as the Senate author.
Importantly, Rep. Miller’s bill also goes one step further and makes it easier for individuals to obtain a provisional license. While it’s currently unclear how much a provisional license will help those recently out of prison obtain jobs, those who work with this population are optimistic.
While there is certainly a public safety interest in revoking driver’s licenses from those who commit driving offenses, there is simply no good reason to keep revoking licenses for those whose offenses are unrelated to driving. I recently heard from one group whose members believe that possession of drugs should continue to be a revocable offense. But when pushed, the only reason was that, in this group’s opinion, most of those possessing drugs while driving are also under the influence. But driving under the influence is still a revocable offense, and such an amendment would be overly inclusive—inevitably revoking licenses for those who are not under the influence.
HB 1795 would be a great step for Oklahoma. It would allow more Oklahomans to more easily get back to work and remain or become taxpaying citizens. It would help the State collect fines, fees, and restitution. Most importantly, it will help reduce recidivism, because meaningful work is one of the best ways to keep people from reoffending. Please reach out to your lawmakers and tell them to vote for HB 1795.