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Habitual offender hit the road again

It is not often that a broken tag light lands somebody in jail. Nor is it often that drivers like Mark A. Golden are still behind the wheel.

Golden was heading north in a black 1996 Dodge on Safford Avenue last week when he was stopped by Tarpon Springs police. After the 43-year-old Largo resident confessed his license had been suspended, the officer ran a computer check that showed seven current suspensions and four prior convictions for driving without a valid license.

The police report also notes Golden had been designated a "habitual traffic offender" in August, thus rendering the broken tag light a felony.

Yet records show that this is just the most recent chapter of Golden's driving dossier. Since he was first caught behind the wheel without a valid license in 1985, Golden has been charged with at least 26 driving offenses in Pinellas County.

Some of the cases were dropped; other times the driving missteps were trumped by drugs or weapons charges that resulted in prison sentences.

But Golden's unenviable driving record has not gone unpunished. He was slapped with a six-month jail sentence for improper tags in 1992 and a six-month suspension for DUI in 1996. In February, Golden refused to take a Breathalyzer exam when Clearwater police arrested him and accused him of crashing a vehicle while intoxicated.

Golden was sentenced to multiple offender school and ordered to use an ignition interlock device for two years. His license was revoked for 12 months in June. He was impaired when Pinellas County sheriff's deputies picked him up again a month later. Yet, neither fines nor bars have kept Golden off the road.

Golden could not be reached on Monday, but his father, James Golden, 74, said he works in road repair.

The elder Golden could not offer explanations for his son's penchant for the road. "I get at him about that every day of my life," he said.