Georgia law gets tough with unlicensed drivers

| 5/23/2008

Two bills that are intended to crack down on illegal immigration in Georgia met different fates when they arrived at Gov. Sonny Perdue’s desk. The governor signed one bill toughening penalties for driving without a license in the state and vetoed the other to allow police to seize vehicles.

The new law, previously SB350, applies to people driving without a valid driver’s license, or driving with a suspended or revoked license. It does not apply to people caught driving with an expired license. People who obtain legal licenses after being cited would have the cases against them dismissed.

Sen. John Wiles, R-Kennesaw, said the change is needed to strengthen rules in the state on unlicensed driving.

“Our current code allows unlicensed drivers a certain amount of leniency,” Wiles said in a written statement. “We need to let those who blatantly ignore the most basic laws of our state know that our laws are serious.”

Driving without a license or driving on a suspended, disqualified or revoked license could result in jail time ranging from two days to 12 months. Second or third offenses within five years would result in at least 10 days in jail and at least $1,000 fines. Subsequent offenses within five years would result in felony charges. Offenders would face one to five years in jail and fines up to $5,000.

Perdue used his veto stamp on another measure – HB978 – that sought to allow authorities to seize vehicles, including large trucks, from illegal immigrants. Law enforcement would have been allowed to take vehicles registered in the state that are involved in traffic violations or wrecks if they are driven by illegal immigrants.

In signing the veto, Perdue said that “while it does provide three exceptions ... it mandates impoundment in all other circumstances.”

The governor said “to help address what I believe to be the concerns of this legislation’s author, I have already signed Senate Bill 350, which enhances penalties for driving without a valid drivers’ license.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Georgia in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor