Citations for Unlicensed Driving Surge in Md.

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 2, 2006

The number of people driving in Maryland without a license has spiked dramatically in recent years, with many of the offenders cited in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, according to a summary of a report released by a state delegate.

During the fiscal year that ended in June 2002, 19,878 citations were issued; in the fiscal year that ended in June 2005, 30,624 were issued, an increase of 54 percent, according to figures released by state Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery).

Those figures do not include people who were cited for driving with a suspended, expired or revoked license, Simmons said.

More than a third of the infractions occurred in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, according to figures Simmons obtained from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

In the fiscal year that ended in June, 22 percent of the state's citations for driving without a license were issued in Prince George's and 16 percent in Montgomery.

Simmons released the findings as he prepares to introduce legislation that would make driving without a license an offense punishable by incarceration in Maryland. In the District and Virginia, driving without a license can land a motorist in jail.

Simmons said the legislation does not target any group. But an advocate for the rights of illegal immigrants said the legislation, if passed, would harm them.

Officials in the District and Virginia said figures were not readily available on how many people in those jurisdictions have been cited for driving without a license in recent years.

In Maryland, driving without a license carries a $315 fine but no threat of jail time, even for multiple offenses.

"You never even have to show up in court," Simmons said in an interview. "All you have to do is keep paying" the fine.

When the state legislative session begins Jan. 11, Simmons said, he plans to introduce legislation that would require people charged with driving without a license to appear in court and face penalties that would include 90 days in jail for a first offense and up to a year in jail for a second offense.

Simmons said he will introduce the legislation because studies have shown that unlicensed drivers are a public safety hazard.


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