OUR POSITION: Operation Green Light is a solid program in Florida that gives people with suspended licenses a way to break the cycle of fines and fees and become legal drivers again.
Hillsborough County recently made news as hundreds of people came down to the county courthouse to take advantage of its annual Operation Green Light day.
Operation Green Light is a program designed to get people caught up on their traffic fines, court costs and fees so they can get their licenses back and move on with their lives.
This is a solid program that’s catching on around Florida and shows all signs of continuing.
We think it should.
In Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, our clerks of the circuit court are all on board with this effort. Each of these offices held special times in recent weeks where people in trouble with fines and court fees could work to get them resolved with the goal of getting their licenses reinstated. All reported good turnout.
“Our entire office enjoys Operation Green Light, because it supports hard-working people by providing a helpful option to get their driver’s licenses back,” wrote Roger D. Eaton, Clerk of the Circuit Court for Charlotte County, in an email to The Daily Sun.
This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. People still have to pay, but the program makes it much easier, with reduced costs and the elimination of collection agency fees, which can pile up on top of the original fine and court costs.
Eliminating the collection agency fees is the key to this program.
“State law requires the clerk and comptroller’s office to turn over unpaid tickets and outstanding court fees to outside collection agencies after they are 90 days late,” Sarasota County Clerk of Court Karen Rushing wrote in a recent column published in The Daily Sun.
In Charlotte County, the result of taking advantage of Operation Green Light can be a 30% to 40% reduction in what is owed.
In most cases, people who want to get in the program and who qualify — this isn’t for people considered a threat to public safety — can pay $25 at the courthouse during the Operation Green Light window and set up a payment plan for the rest. In Charlotte and Sarasota counties, you can do this online.
Once these obligations are met, people in the program are eligible to have their driver license reinstated.
The added advantage of getting these fees paid back to the counties to which they are owed, making it a win-win situation.
Check out these numbers provided the office of DeSoto County Clerk of the Court Nadia K. Daughtrey, where the Operation Green Light window is one week, including a Saturday morning, in March: 76 cases were put on payment plans, 21 customers were on track to get back on the road (several had more than one case), and $130,386.27 in fees pulled out of collections.
Of course we strongly recommend people obey the law by observing speed limits, stopping at stop signs and red lights, pulling over if an emergency vehicle is trying to pass, and to slow down and move over a lane when you see an emergency vehicle or a tow truck alongside the road.
But we also recognize things can happen, people get tickets, and even if you don’t think you’re in the wrong, you still have to address the matter with the court system.
Some people may not realize that if you don’t pay tickets it can result in getting your license suspended or revoked. Driving with a suspended or revoked license is a criminal offense. That means, if you get pulled over while doing this, you can go to jail.
Operation Green Light can be a remedy for that, and the fact that our Clerks of Court are participating in this program shows good judgement and good faith on their part.