Edmonds eases penalties for driving with a suspended license

Some offenders will now receive a ticket instead of possible jail time.

EDMONDS — The city is changing how it treats people who drive with suspended licenses.

In early November, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson and interim Police Chief Jim Lawless announced officers would no longer file criminal cases for the sole offense of operating a vehicle with a suspended license. Previously, it could lead to time in jail. Later that month, the city council voted to make the change permanent.

Instead, police will issue a civil infraction that comes with a $250 ticket. Paired with typical traffic violations, the total ticket can reach up to $550.

“Criminalizing the stand-alone offense of Driving While License Suspended in the Third Degree can lead an individual down a spiral of debt, inability to drive, loss of job, and worse,” Nelson said in a news release. “That downward spiral hits particularly hard among lower-income individuals and people of color. In Washington State, Black people are three times more likely to be charged, and Native Americans are twice as likely to be charged, with this offense.”

Drivers can have their license suspended for many reasons — from not paying a speeding ticket to being convicted of hit-and-run.

In Edmonds, the new rule does not apply to people previously convicted of hit-and-run, vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, attempting to elude, DUI, or 10 or more driving-while-license-suspended offenses.

Nearly a third of all prosecutions in the city’s court deal with drivers with suspended licenses, Nelson said.

Councilmember Luke Distelhorst helped lead the council’s initiative, with councilmember Susan Paine.

Driving with a suspended license is the most-charged crime in the state, Distelhorst said.

The new citation will clear municipal court and law enforcement resources for other issues, he said.

“It’s providing options that keep people out of jail,” he said. “The overall goal is to get people re-licensed.”

Now, the prosecutors, defenders and judge of the city’s municipal court are tasked with figuring out how they’ll handle drivers who don’t pay the ticket, or fail to appear for their court date.

They could send the unpaid ticket to collections, opt for a diversion plan that speeds up the re-licensing process, set up payment plans or let people use volunteer hours to pay what they owe.

Snohomish County and the city of Lynnwood have made similar changes, in addition to several other cities and counties across the state.

Each government handles the issue differently. Edmonds leaders are asking the Legislature to bring a statewide approach to the issue.

Last year, state Sen. Jesse Salomon, D-Shoreline, sponsored a bill to improve the state’s re-licensing program, in particular in cases in which people are charged with driving with a suspended license. The bill did not make it out of the Senate.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Staff are evaluating two more light rail alternatives for the Everett Link extension. One would follow Interstate 5 north of 128th Street SW to the Everett Mall and back to the freeway. Another would go west of 128th Street SW to Highway 99 and north to Casino Road. (Sound Transit)
Snohomish County leaders reject light rail routes bypassing Paine Field

Those options weren’t what voters approved — and would be like “butchering” the plan, the Snohomish County executive said.

A Sound Transit train arrives at Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. (Sue Misao / Herald file) May 2019
Should light rail skip Paine Field and Boeing? We asked, you answered

More than 300 Herald readers responded to an online poll. Here are the results.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Highway 9 work could disrupt travel through Lake Stevens

Construction is set for roundabouts on South Lake Stevens Road and one at North Davies Road and Vernon Road.

Lynnwood City Council members, from left: Jim Smith, Shirley Sutton, Shannon Sessions, Josh Binda, George Hurst, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, and Patrick Decker. (City of Lynnwood)
No penalty for Lynnwood council member’s ‘underinformed’ views on racism

The City Council didn’t censure Jim Smith after a report found he discriminated against a Black city employee.

All ears: Mukilteo couple provides surgery for kids born without ears

Dr. Prabhat and Trish Bhama are part of a HUGS volunteer team providing treatment for microtia in Guatemala.

(Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - US Forest Service)
U.S. 2 reopens east of Index as Bolt Creek wildfire moves north

The highway was blocked off earlier this week as the fire spread.

People gather outside of the new Northwest Carpenters Institute building prior to a grand opening celebration Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022, in Burlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Building a workforce: Northwest Carpenters expand training center

About 160 Snohomish County tradespeople take the apprentice classes in Burlington center. There’s ample room to grow.

A Coast Guard cutter searches for a crashed chartered floatplane near Mutiny Bay Monday afternoon in Freeland, Washington on September 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
5 more bodies recovered from floatplane crash off Whidbey

About 80% of the plane, including the engine, was recovered using remotely operated vessels.

Conceptual rendering for a future section of Smokey Point Boulevard between 174th Place NE and 200th Street NE. (City of Arlington)
Plan seeks to transform Smokey Point Blvd. into ‘neighborhood corridor’

City officials hope roundabouts, sidewalks and more will turn 2 miles of busy road into a neighborhood street.

Most Read