DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham’s District Attorney’s office has dismissed more than 50,000 traffic cases in the past three months, allowing many people to get their suspended licenses back.
It’s part of the city’s “Durham Expunction and Restoration” program that recently launched online and at the Durham County courthouse.
Qwarm Golden was at the courthouse Wednesday wanting his driver’s license back.
“I’ve been on the bus for about a year now and that’s been a struggle,” he said.
Two years ago Golden received two tickets for violations, including speeding, but didn’t have the money to pay. His license got suspended.
On Wednesday he took the step to get it back with the help of the City. His wife told him about the program.
“I was explosive,” he said. “Like, I can get my life back and be there for my family in a higher capacity.”
According to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, approximately 1-in-5 adults in Durham County have a revoked or suspended driver’s license.
According to data from the City of Durham Innovation Team, 80 percent of those with revoked or suspended licenses are African American and Hispanic, and many of these suspensions stem from unpaid tickets that are on average 16 years old with some more than 30 years old.
The City of Durham said between December 2018 and February 2019, the Durham County District Attorney’s Office dismissed over 50,000 traffic cases preventing more than 30,000 people from restoring their driving privileges. During the same period, the Durham County District Attorney’s Office and the DEAR Program partnered to begin asking the Durham County District Court to eliminate all unpaid fines and fees for over 15,000 old traffic cases for over 11,000 people.
Right now, 1,700 people in Durham could get a second chance specifically for unpaid tickets. That number is expected to grow as the DA has 15,000 cases for judges to consider.
The City pulled the cases with minor violations more than two years old. Charges such as driving while impaired or reckless driving are not eligible.
“By no means is our program letting people off,” said Laura Holland, an attorney for the program.
She said those who benefit have already dealt with the consequences.
CBS 17 learned many of the licenses suspended in Durham date back more than a dozen years.
“That is punishment enough to have your licenses suspended for 16 years, which either forces you to ride the bus, or having to walk, or having to get rides,” Holland said.
Once the judge gives the OK, the DMV must lift the suspension. The City is doing this program to help people get back on their feet.
“Everybody comes into some kind of situation here, there or whatever,” Golden said. “So we should all look at it as we need to help one another.”
Holland said that Wake and Orange counties are also looking into starting their own programs and will work with officials in Durham.