Operation Green Light to waive fees for driver license reinstatements
A state-wide effort designed to help Lee County drivers get suspended licenses reinstated will be offered this month.
Lee County Clerk of Courts Linda Doggett said Operation Green Light, a fee-forgiveness program, was also offered in 2015.
Unfortunately, not everyone eligible took advantage of the statewide program as hoped, resulting in the program stopping for a while.
“The legislature thought it was a great thing, so they want to do it every year,” Doggett said.
This year Operation Green Light will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12, and from 7:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, through Friday, Oct. 18, at the downtown Fort Myers office, 2075 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd/1700 Monroe Street.
“We estimate in Lee County that there are 52,000 people who can benefit from this program. We won’t get 52,000 people here. We might get a couple hundred,” she said.
The Operation Green Light allows for the waiver of some of the fees added to an initial traffic fine, or court fine.
Doggett said when violators do not pay, other things get piled on top including a collection agency fee, suspension fee, noncompliance fee, as well as a $25 payment plan fee.
“We are going to waive all those ad-ons to bring them back to where they started to get their driver’s license reinstated,” she said.
In other words, by waiving the 25 percent collection surcharge for traffic tickets, court fines and fees more than 90 days past due, someone with a $206 ticket will save $51.50 in collection agency surcharges during Operation Green Light.
The hours for Operation Green Light have been extended during the week, so people who work can come in and see what can be done. Hours are also offered on Saturday to make it more convenient.
During the program, they also will put people back on a payment plan.
“If they have failed three payment plans with us we don’t allow them to go back on a payment plan,” she said. “There is a lot of effort on our part to put them on a payment plan. It adds on $25 every time they do it. During this Operation Green Light we are going to put them back on a payment plan regardless.”
In addition, Doggett said she believes they are going to have some judges that might convert some, or all, of their fines to community service.
“It gives them a great opportunity to pay the money, come in after hours and get their driver’s license back. If they get picked up on a suspended license that is a criminal offense. They do not need that on top of everything else. They need the driver’s license back,” she said.
There are a handful of reasons someone will not qualify for getting their driver’s license reinstated during Operation Green Light.
Those include losing a driver’s license to a DUI, habitual traffic offenders, court ordered child support payments and traffic- related felonies.
In addition, those who failed to complete a driver improvement course, or substance and alcohol abuse course may not have their license reinstated.
Doggett said they do driver’s license reinstatements for civil traffic, while the Tax Collector’s office reinstates a driver’s license for other reasons.
“They are going to do these extended hours with us to help people as much as possible,” she said, adding that Larry Hart, Lee County’s tax collector, is a “really good guy.”
Doggett said the more they can do at the front end to reduce the number of suspensions is a focal point they are pursing. Right now, all the clerks from the State of Florida are trying to work on an agreement with Walmart to take cash payments for this type of citation.
For example an individual can go to Walmart and put $20 towards their citation. In turn, Walmart would send the money and citation number to the Clerk of Court and it would post to the individual’s account.
In addition, Doggett said they also are trying to get some funding together for texting software that could be used statewide to send out reminders to individuals. The reminders would include such things as a driver only has a week left to pay their citation before it is overdue, or their payment for their payment plan is due in a few days.
“Little things like that could help on the front end that can help prevent suspension on the backend,” Doggett said, adding that they are going to the legislature for the texting initiative.