A 23-year-old Maine motorist who lost his license for three years under a little-publicized provision of Tina’s Law is crying foul.
Joe P. Dehetre of Turner has a long and checkered driving record that includes 10 tickets for speeding, one for failing to obey a traffic device and two for not wearing a seat belt. But he hadn’t had a moving violation in 15 months when he rolled through a stop sign in January.
That ticket, however, triggered a section of Tina’s Law that labels anyone with 10 moving violations in five years a habitual offender. It doesn’t matter if nine of them occurred before last summer’s enactment of the law inspired by serial bad driver Scott Hewitt, who crashed into and killed a woman on the Maine Turnpike.
The letter Dehetre received last month from the Secretary of State informing him that he can’t drive for the next three years came as a surprise.
“It’s pretty mind-boggling,” Dehetre said. “I had no idea, no clue.”
His mother, Alison Dehetre, has been driving him to and from his construction job and has made calls to the Secretary of State’s Office and to legislators.
“He gets so frustrated and wound up, he cries, he yells,” she said. She said she supports Tina’s Law but thinks it should target people operating after suspension, like Hewitt, not people with moving violations, like her son.
“Everybody you talk to, it’s double-dipping,” Alison Dehetre said, noting that her son already paid more than $3,000 in fines, lost his license several times and spent four days in jail for his driving convictions.
Joe Dehetre said the provision that stripped him and 48 others of their licenses is unfair.
“Some guy killed somebody and now I have to deal with it,” he said.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said he and legislators responded to complaints by reviewing the law in April to see if it was unexpectedly snaring lots of people. They decided it wasn’t.
“Frankly, I think it’s something we stand behind. The highway safety component is just too strong of an element to ignore,” Dunlap said. “The message of habitual offender revocation is that we see that you don’t really understand that we’re serious about this.”
As for the surprise factor, Dunlap said the state considered sending out warning notices before Tina’s Law passed and specifically decided against it.
“Frankly, we didn’t go there simply because we weren’t sure we’d be able to reach them all,” he said.
After 18 months, drivers can petition Dunlap for a work-restricted license.
“If they’ve gotten 10 offenses, that means they’re pretty much ignoring the law,” said Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, an original sponsor. Whatever punishment got meted out before, “That wasn’t having any effect – perhaps this will. That’s what the purpose of the law is.”
Information from: Sun-Journal, http://www.sunjournal.com
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