Untangling BMV history can prove difficult and costly for people who want to legally drive again

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- You can lose your driver's license for a lot of reasons in Indiana and getting it back after you rack up violations and suspensions can take a significant amount of time and money.

For Jimmy Brown, getting back in the driver's seat took years of work and thousands of dollars. Brown's lengthy history with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles started in the 1980's, when his cousin began using Brown's name when he got in trouble with police, causing some charges to appear on Brown's record.

"The kind of job that I had, I had to drive to work and I kept driving and it just made the problem worse," Brown said.

Brown racked up multiple convictions for driving while suspended and ended up in jail, by his count, around 30 times. He began hiring attorneys to try to get his license back, but at first he didn't have much luck.

"I think I spent like $10,000 on lawyers ... and nothing happened, you know, they didn’t do nothing for me," Brown said.

Brown's situation changed when he met Scott Devries, an attorney who used to work for the BMV and now specializes in driving cases.

"I guess they say Scott’s kind of like the specialist at this, like 'the license king' they call him," Brown said. "The day I met Scott was a good day for me."

"It's really interesting, you know, it's like putting together a puzzle," Devries said. "I was able to go back and get four convictions set aside (for Brown)."

It took about a year and petitions to multiple courts, but eventually Devries was able to untangle Brown's record and get him his license back.

"A lot of these cases just needed a little time. Not a lot, just a little time, you know," Brown said.

Another Hoosier encountered roadblocks after decades of driving convictions

Robert Marineau would like to see the same kind of success. He contacted CBS4 Problem Solvers after a judge denied his request to drive again and he thought he found a mistake in his BMV driving record.

Unlike Brown, who only had a history of driving on a suspended license, Marineau has a history of drunk driving. He has more than two dozen suspensions on his record, including a 10-year suspension for being a habitual traffic violator, entered by the BMV in 2012.

Marineau's last conviction was ten years ago, in 2019, and he said he's turned his life around and would like a chance to drive legally, especially since his wife has to drive him back and forth to work.

"I work second shift and she has to stay up until two o’clock in the morning and come get me," Marineau said.

Devries reviewed Marineau's case for CBS4 Problem Solvers and said he believes the latest suspension was entered three to five years late, but that there are also two indefinite suspensions that Marineau needs to clear up before a judge is likely to give him his license back.

According to Devries, someone like Marineau could try to petition a judge for a restricted license with any number of conditions, like only being able to drive at certain times of the day or to certain locations.

"None of us want people who are dangerous drivers on the road, right, so the law was written to give discretion to the judges, a tremendous amount of discretion to the judges to grant them or deny them and if they grant them, to put conditions in place to safeguard the community," Devries said.

Proposed changes to Indiana law could offer route to second chance

One option a judge could consider is an ignition interlock system, which requires a driver to take a breathalyzer test before their car will start. Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Indiana is pushing the state to consider a law that would automatically require the devices for all drunk driving offenders. 30 states have already enacted similar laws.

"Ignition interlock is kind of what we have most recently found to be successful as far as deterring people from continually being habitual offenders," said Annie Baker, MADD Indiana's Volunteer Resource Specialist.

Baker said that she typically works on cases where a driver gets their license back before a conviction, causing concern for victims. In a case like Marineau's where an offender would like a second chance, Baker suggested that ignition interlock could be a good compromise.

"I think MADD in this case would like to see at least the minimum of six months before just saying, 'Yes, you can have this license to drive back and forth to work,'" Baker said.

Devries said in his experience, people like Marineau who want to drive legally can hit a brick wall when they try to get their license back.

"They’re like, 'Man this stuff haunts me, I can’t get rid of it and no matter what I do my past is haunting me,'" Devries said.

Devries plans to keep taking these cases on, weighing the complicated issues that surround a simple question: Who should be allowed to drive alongside us on the road?

"It’s life-changing. ... Other attorneys will say, 'I’ve got not guilty on criminal cases and the reaction is so much more subdued than getting people driving privileges back,' where they’ll start crying, you know, because they get their life back," Devries said.

You can watch part 1 of this special CBS4 Problem Solvers report, which delves deeper into a potential BMV error in Marineau's record, at the link here.

If you have a problem you'd like CBS4 Problem Solvers to consider, contact us at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.

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