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

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers speaks to the crowd during an opening ceremony at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County executive pitches $1.66B budget

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers announced his proposed budget Tuesday afternoon. Public comment is slated to begin Oct. 10.

Most Read