A recent N.C. House bill would ask for tougher penalties for driving without a license AND add the threat of jail time – a move which appears to target illegal immigrants. The consequences would become harsher for drivers who do not meet the legal requirements for a North Carolina license which includes having a valid Social Security number. These drivers could face jail time after their third offense, at which time their vehicles could be seized by the police.
Immigrants were not mentioned by legislators during the committee debate, but it’s apparent that drivers who are here illegally and as a result don’t meet NC license requirements, would be affected most by the increased penalties. Dani Moore, director of the center’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, suggested that “the legislature…consider ways for all drivers in North Carolina to get licenses.”
Opponents also voiced monetary concerns that the court system and county jails will be required to spend more to enforce a new driving law. It is estimated that each conviction could cost the state up to $361 in court costs, public defender services and probation. The projection does not including the costs involved with jailing the offenders.
DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENSE
Current penalties: All drivers – regardless of whether they’re eligible for a license – face a Class 3 misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum fine of $200. Judges can only impose additional penalties if the driver is facing a fifth conviction within a single year.
Proposed penalty for drivers eligible for a license: No change
Proposed penalty for drivers who aren’t eligible for a license: A $400 fine on the 2nd and each subsequent offense, plus the possibility of a 20-60-day jail term for the 3rd or subsequent offense. On the 3rd or subsequent offense, the driver’s vehicle could be seized.