The ABA Journal reports that more than 2,000 people who were issued pedestrian tickets from 2012 to 2016 in Florida, specifically Duval County, had their driver’s license suspended or had their ability to obtain a driver’s license limited, according to a Florida-Times Union and ProPublica analysis. The research was prompted by the perception of aggressive enforcement of approximately two dozen often obscure pedestrian statutes by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Bigger Consequences Than Expected
The pedestrian citations, which are often a modest $65 fine, can have larger consequences for those who cannot pay or refuse to pay the ticket. During the five years studied, 2,004 pedestrian tickets were issued in Duval, which is comprised almost entirely by the city of Jacksonville. The Florida Times-Union/ProPublica study found more than 900 people who did not or were unable to pay the monetary fine lost their driver’s licenses or the ability to get one. A previous Times-Union/ProPublica investigation revealed that 55% of tickets written by Jacksonville law enforcement in recent years were issued went to African Americans, despite the fact that they make up only 29% of Jacksonville’s population. Moreover, African Americans comprised of more than 50% of the over 900 pedestrian tickets issued that resulted in driver’s license suspension.
Losing a driver’s license in a city like Jacksonville, which is sprawling and not quite pedestrian-friendly, can make simple aspects of daily life quite difficult. Data for the study was pulled from the Duval County Clerk of Courts and the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers.
Jacksonville’s City Council has asked the Office of General Counsel to investigate the situation further, while the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office insists no one group is being targeted in the issuance of pedestrian tickets. According to the Sheriff’s Office, those who do receive pedestrian tickets have the ability to contest them before a judge.
Florida state Senator Jeff Brandes (R) of Pinellas County, sits on the legislature’s criminal justice committee and has repeatedly introduced measures to prohibit driver’s license suspension for non-driving offenses. His bill, which he plans to introduce for the third time, would allow individuals who can show financial hardship to perform community services instead of trying to pay a civil fine they cannot afford. If the law governing licensing suspension is changed, the Florida Clerks of Court is at risk of losing $40 million in annual revenue.
If you or someone you know has been issued a pedestrian ticket in Jacksonville, contact a knowledgeable attorney right away.