47th District Court finds success with license clearing program

The 47th District Court, which serves Farmington and Farmington Hills, has found success with a program that helps drivers who’ve lost their licenses get back on track.

During a Monday Farmington Hills City Council study session, Court Administrator Dave Walsh said the License Clearing Project gives a driver with a suspended license the opportunity to legally drive. Often, people will drive on a suspended license to keep their jobs, then get arrested for driving without a license, which adds even more fines and fees.

“It becomes sort of an endless cycle they can’t get out of,” he said.

To participate in the program, a driver signs a contract that includes a schedule of payments. The initial payment includes a $40 assessment paid to the State of Michigan, a $45 clearance fee, and a portion of the fines and costs – typically a total of $100-$125.

“Once they make those payments, their license is cleared,” Walsh said. “It’s been a real rewarding program.”

The amount of monthly payments varies and is based on what the driver can realistically afford. Walsh said he’d rather extend the plan than set a payment too high. If a payment is missed, drivers can appear in court to explain their circumstances.

Of the 219 contracts signed thus far, 142 have either been paid or are in process, and 77 have defaulted, resulting in a license re-suspension. The Court has collected $56,597, with $11,975 outstanding and $20,070 owed on the failed contracts.

Walsh said drivers who have had their licenses re-suspended can get back into the program. He said he also works with drivers to help them complete their contracts.

“The goal here is to get their debts paid and have them go on to have a successful life,” he said.

“People are really grateful,” 47th District Court Judge Marla Parker added. “(They) are excited about the opportunity to get their license back.”