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Special Report: Drivers back on the road immediately after having license suspended, revoked

Special Report: Drivers back on the road immediately after having license suspended, revoked

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It’s a hidden danger on the road: people driving even after their license is suspended or revoked.

CBS 58 Investigates went to Milwaukee traffic court and witnessed firsthand some of those unlicensed drivers getting behind the wheel minutes after appearing in court. One man, charged with driving with a revoked license, left the courthouse and immediately got in his car and drove away.

“For our officers on the streets it’s really a daily occurrence,” said Capt. Brian Zalewski with the Wauwatosa Police Department.

For the last five years, driving with a suspended license was the second most common traffic conviction. Capt. Zalewski says in Wauwatosa about one in every ten citations police hand out is for driving without a license.  But those citations do little to keep people off the road.

“Our officers see repeat offenders on a daily basis,” Capt. Zalewski said.

In Traffic Court CBS 58 Investigates witnessed several people appear on charges of operating while revoked.

“The danger is the people who are out there driving without a license, have committed previous traffic violations that led them down that path,” Capt. Zalewski said. “So it’s not the safe drivers who are out there driving on suspended or revoked driver’s licenses.”

And the consequences can be deadly, as Sharon Tyler knows all too well. One year ago, her dad, 71-year-old Andrew Tyler was killed in a hit and run while on his way to his crossing guard post.

“He lived me right above me so, when we had new tenants, you think that’s him walking around upstairs, it’s not,” Tyler said.

The driver, Terrence Harris, was sentenced to 12 years in prison earlier this year. Adding to the heartbreak, Harris wasn’t even supposed to be behind the wheel. His license was revoked in August of 2017 after an OWI conviction. Just 10 days later, he was cited for operating while revoked.

“What’s gonna stop them?” Tyler asked. “I don’t know what we can do to stop them from driving.”

In 2017 there were 94,647 convictions for operating while suspended or revoked. From January through June of 2018, operating while suspended topped the list, ahead of even speeding tickets

Back in traffic court, one man accepted a plea deal for OWI and his license was revoked for six months. CBS 58 Investigates watched that man leave the courthouse, enter a parking garage, and get in the driver’s seat.

Police say clearly, the existing citations aren’t working.

“Are their options legally as far as impounding people’s cars their vehicles?” Capt. Zalewski said.

But Capt. Zalewski adds there’s no perfect solution.

“You increase fines, you take people’s car away, it really then limits their ability to earn income, or limits their ability to take care of their family,” Capt. Zalewski said.

Tyler says something needs to change, so no other family has to grieve a loss like hers.

“It’ hurts,” Tyler said. “He should still be here. But I just like to think he’s watching over us.”

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