Local News

More Motorists In N.C. Driving Without Valid Driver's License

Posted December 18, 2001

— On the way to work, North Carolina drivers are likely within a stone's throw of an unlicensed driver. Every day, dozens of drivers who do not have valid licenses appear in Wake County District Court.

"We get thousands of people through the court system in Wake County every year charged with driving while license revoked," Wake County district attorney Colon Willoughby said. "I think they probably drive up here to the courthouse and drive away."

Napoleon Marsh does not have a valid driver's license. In fact, he has not had one in years, but he is still driving.

According to papers from the Department of Motor Vehicles, Napoleon Marsh's problems with his driver's license date back to 1983. He has been convicted of driving while revoked 10 times, driving without a license four times. His license has been suspended 13 times, five times permanently.

"They'll take the chance, and you can see that by the fact that they come into court with two, three, four, five driving while license revoked, so you know they're driving," district court judge Kristin Ruth said.

In North Carolina, it does not take much to get a license revoked.

"Failure to take care of a traffic citation is one of the ways now. If you fail to do that, your license gets revoked," said Willoughby.

"Once it is revoked, if you don't take care of it early on, then it's the snowball effect and it's harder to get back because with each driving with license revoked, you add another year of suspended license," said Ruth.

Thousands of unlicensed drivers get caught at road blocks every year. In one week in September, the statewide "Click it or Ticket Campaign" netted 8,296 drivers who were not supposed to be behind the wheel.

"I'm sure if you look at the percentage of the times they drive and don't get caught, it's worth the risk to them," said Sgt. Don Hamilton of the Cary Police Department.

Police say unlicensed drivers have all kinds of excuses.

"Just today, I'm four classes away from getting my driver's license back. I forget to pay a ticket is a common one, or I've never had a driver's license, and I've been driving for years without one," said Hamilton.

"If you have any intentions of getting your license back, do not drive, because odds are you will turn that corner, there will be a license check going on, and you will get caught," said Willoughby.

But some people like Marsh do not seem worried.

"We get some folks whose license gets revoked. They get tickets and it gets revoked for an additional period of time. I think they make a conscious decision that they're never going to have a license again, but they are going to drive," said Willoughby.

As of Dec. 1, there were 393,839 revoked drivers in North Carolina. WRAL asked Marsh to talk to us about his driving record, but he declined.

At a minimum, people found guilty of driving while revoked get a 45-day suspended jail sentence, one-year probation and a $200 fine.

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