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A Times Editorial

License lapse inexcusable

When a judge revokes a drunken driver's license for life, there should be absolutely no confusion. That man is never supposed to drive again.

Yet William Edward Ham, who killed a woman while driving drunk a decade ago, was able to obtain a valid Florida license a year ago, not long after his release from prison — even though a judge had permanently revoked his license.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles had some explaining to do Thursday. Department officials said a discrepancy in documents a decade ago in an era of paper record-keeping should have been cleared up then, but that the department had failed to ask questions. As a result, Ham's lifetime revocation was never entered into computer records.

Fortunately, Ham was stopped before someone got hurt again. Tampa police arrested him after an officer reported him either asleep or passed out behind the wheel at a stoplight early Wednesday. He was jailed on new charges of DUI and violating his probation.

The bureaucracy got lucky. The electronic record has been changed, so Ham will never be able to obtain a Florida license again. But the department, even while claiming that modern electronic record-keeping should prevent such problems going forward, must do whatever is necessary to make sure this doesn't happen again. Drivers with DUI convictions who are supposed to be off the road for good should not slip through the cracks.

License lapse inexcusable 03/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 7:09pm]
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