Attack on the poor? Bill would require vehicles be impounded if drivers caught without license

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MADISON -- Anyone caught driving without a valid license would have their vehicle impounded, under a bill proposed by a Republican state lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, expects the legislation he's filed will get dangerous drivers off Wisconsin roads, but critics view it as an attack on low-income people.

Last year in Wisconsin, law enforcement officers ticketed 114,117 people for either driving without a license or having a suspended or revoked license. Sanfelippo said the state is doing a poor job of keeping bad drivers off the road.

"They’ll get somebody to come pick up the car for them and drive it away, and then an hour later (the offender) is back driving the car again,"he said.

More than 114,000 people were ticketed last year for not having valid driver's licenses

More than 114,000 people were ticketed last year for not having valid driver's licenses

About 16 percent of drivers who had their licenses suspended or revoked in 2011, the most recent year available, were because they'd been caught for alcohol-related offenses, such as operating while intoxicated.

Another 57 percent of people had their licenses taken away because they couldn't pay traffic-related fines, the data show.

Sanfelippo's office provided the numbers, which the lawmaker said had been requested from the state Transportation Department. A spokeswoman for the DOT said she couldn't immediately provide more current statistics.

drivingCritics of the legislation pointed to the 57 percent of people who couldn't afford to pay fines, saying they still need to drive to get to their jobs.

"I think that (the bill) is unfairly punishing poor people," said Molly Gena, an attorney with Legal Action of Wisconsin. Gena provides legal help to lower-income people trying to their licenses back.

She said lower-income people certainly can't afford to get their vehicles out of an impound lot, meaning they'd be stuck without a car and a way to provide for their families.

Molly Gena

Molly Gena

"These are not the people who I believe the representative is targeting," she said. "These are not the people that are getting OWIs, so (the bill) is not going to make the roads any safer in Wisconsin."

Judges can suspend a person's license for two years for failure to pay fines, which Gena said is longer than the suspension for a first-offense OWI conviction.

Sanfelippo's bill includes an exception for drivers whose licenses had expired within the past six months. The legislation isn't intended to punish people who'd simply forgotten to renew their licenses, he explained.

Driver pulled over

Driver pulled over

The lawmaker denied having an interest in punishing poor people, either.

"We don`t pass laws in Wisconsin and then have an income test to decide if you have to follow the law or you don`t. The law is the law," he said.

This bill hasn't yet gotten a hearing in Madison.

Sanfelippo has also proposed separate bill that would increase the fines for driving without insurance.

CLICK HERE to read traffic citation statistics provided by Rep. Sanfelippo’s office.

READ IT: Statement from Rep. Sanfelippo on this bill.


    • Ralph Novy

      These are the same people who, if they’d been good, Aryan citizens in Germany in the 1930s, would have enthusiastically supported packing off Jews and other “undesirables” for violations of various laws enacted by The Third Reich. After all, being a free German citizen was a privilege, not a right.

  • Daniel & Kris

    Molly Gena MUST BE ONE OF THOSE ENTITLED BRATS WHO GOT HER COLLEGE PAID FOR BY MOMMY AND DADDY. The law is the law. Following it does NOT depend on your income or skin color IT YOU ARE CAUGHT DRIVING WITHOUT A VALID LICENSE (white, black, green brown, rich or poor) THEN YOUR CAR GETS IMPOUNDED! You can be poor or low-income and still get a license. And, if you want a car, then you MUST HAVE INSURANCE! It is very simple Molly Gena. Grow up Molly, quit arguing who should follow the law, and stop preaching false privilege.

  • Craig

    The problem I have with this story is the Molly Gena’s targeting the poor theory! If you get a ticket, you were doing something wrong in the first place, and if you’re not responsible enough , or can’t afford to pay the ticket, you shouldn’t be driving! If they can’t afford to pay the ticket, are they paying their insurance! People driving without insurance cost everyone money in the long run! Whether or not they are part of the drinking and driving problem is irrelevant, driving is a privalage not a right, and if you are not responsible enough or can’t afford it, you shouldn’t be behind the wheel!

  • MADD mama

    Let’s not forget that accidents occuring with unlicensed/uninsured drivers fall onto the shoulders of the responsible driver, thus eventually causing rates to go up. The cycle has to be broken somehow. However, I do agree with the attorney on the point about longer suspensions for outstanding tickets than OWI’s. Really?!! Any time a fool gets behind the wheel drunk they should be charged with attempted vehicular manslaughter.

  • Jason Drought

    FINALLY! Someone is doing something about unlicensed drivers! I love how the news story cites how most people lost their license for ‘being unable to pay the traffic citation’…. How about choose not to be responsible enough to follow through with payment options, drivers classes or budgeting for the fee they KNEW was coming.. Driving is a privilege and NOT A RIGHT!

  • Mike Johnson

    not an attack on the poor. the unlicensed uninsured drivers are an attack on good licensed insured drivers. i got hit by one of these goons. he took off after rear ending me when the cops found him no license no insurance no nothing. so who loses? i do. i could sue the guy but why bother he has nothing now nor will he ever at least if his car was impounded he wouldnt be able to hit anyone else with it until he scraped up 300 from his baby momma to get it back

  • Liberalsneedaclue

    Obviously they must not be very poor if they can afford a car and gas in the first place.. and they can’t manage to have their “license” with them? I don’t see how this is “attacking the poor”.. more like getting drivers who SHOULD NOT BE ON THE ROADS OFF THE ROADS! Molly sounds like a no-clue liberal who needs a reality check.

  • ricky

    i have had to drive wiithout a valid license for awhile lost my job couldnt find one for quite of coarse could pay my child they revoke my liscense till i start as you can see had no choice but to people out there with your fancy and rich cars need to have your license revoked,dont use your turn signals ,cut other drivers off the road ,driving in a 25 at 15 50.not whereing your seat belts.please most people i know had to be in this situation are better drivers then you noobs who have there license.

    • Jason Drought

      You didn’t have to drive, you chose to drive illegally.. You could have walked, jogged, ran, used roller skates, rode a bike, took the bus, called a friend, called a taxi or summoned a magical rug.. Either way, you had OPTIONS OTHER THAN DRIVE ILLEGALLY! You chose to do it because it was more convenient you…. DUH!

  • S

    I wonder if this will apply to people who have multiple outstanding and unpaid charges out there ? Even if they now have a license ? Let’s get those tickets paid and teach people they can keep disregarding the law

  • Dennis Montoya

    I am guessing the majority of you compassionate individuals are god fearing christians. It is never shocking to read heartless ignorant comments by those who would claim to be living as their lord and savior would like. Maybe you can imagine a scenario where a person is doing a favor for another (hard to believe right) and they drive their friend’s car. Little do they know that after losing their job the child support enforcement department automatically reports to the motor vehicle department and their license is suspended without any notification. Now obviously your first instinct is to blast the deadbeat who failed to pay their child support for 30 days or more but consider the poor fool who had current registration and insurance, who had a valid driver’s license. His vehicle is now impounded for 30 days. Imagine if the car owner is a disabled individual barely making it month to month and the impound fees are just too much for him to pay. Sure he could have called dispatch and ran a check on his friend who showed a valid license but who has the time? Consider the single mom in this situation. Responsible for her children and now left without any way to transport her children to school, doctor’s appointments, grocery store and so on. There are instances where the law is going to do more harm than good. What public service is done by stranding a person? There have to be exceptions and considerations made to protect the poor and working poor.

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