Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Help Me Howard: License
What would you do if you did not have a drivers license? Think about it. Legally, you could not go to work or to the grocery store. And if you were visiting South Florida, you could not even go back home. What makes this case so interesting: the police had the driver's license, but they could not touch it, which is why we turn to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When James Johnson moved down to South Florida, one thing impressed him about Miami.
James Johnson: "Like the weather. Otherwise, it's a city."
The fact that James's Miami experience has not been wonderful is understandable.
First, he came from Ohio for a few months to help his brother with his busted ankle. Secondly, his luck has not been great.
James Johnson: "When it turned green, I pulled into the intersection, and a car ran the red light and clipped the front of my car."
James's car was badly damaged, but he seemed to be OK when the police officer pulled up and asked for his information.
James Johnson: "The driver's license and car registration. So I handed them to him."
Fire rescue then looked at James and decided to take him to the hospital to get checked out. So James turned to the officer.
James Johnson: "I asked the officer if I could have my paperwork back 'cause I was on the run and the officer said, 'I am not finished yet.'"
That was the last James saw of his Ohio driver's license and car registration. For days, he tried to get it back and couldn't, and found out how tough it can be to live without a license.
James Johnson: "I couldn't even drive the loaner car after the acciden,t because I need to present a driver's license."
James said he finally got in touch with an investigator who told him his license was inside the squad car of the officer who investigated his accident.
James Johnson: "That police officer who was at the scene with you, his car was impounded due to an investigation apart from your accident. It's going to take a judge to order that it be unlocked to get your driver's license and car registration out."
That's when James gave up and called us. We spoke to Miami Police who couldn't get his license out of the car. But they did come up with an alternative plan.
James Johnson: "Oh, they were very nice, very congenial."
The officers convinced the car agency to rent James a car and gave him a copy of his Ohio license, signed by a detective confirming it was a valid license, in case he got pulled over.
Patrick Fraser: "So you got a permission slip from the police to drive a rental car?"
James Johnson: "Exactly."
That was the good news, but James still can't leave Miami-Dade with this piece of paper and can't fly back to Ohio to get a copy of his drivers license without a license.
James Johnson: "So I can't drive to Ohio, I can't fly to Ohio without a picture ID on my driver's license. You know, this is a twilight zone. You are stuck in Miami. Stuck in Miami."
James is stuck in Miami and is told he can't have his license till a judge lets investigators open the police car. Ever heard of something like this, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "This is rare but it's not unheard of. As for the license, if a judge ordered that the car be impounded and sealed, you would have to go to court and ask the judge for your license. However, if the car is sealed as part of the police departments rules, they can open it up anytime they want."
When we spoke to Miami Police about getting James's Ohio license back to him, to their credit, they moved very quickly. In fact, not only did they get his license and car registration, Internal Affairs detectives delivered it to his door. He now has his license and can go back to Ohio after his brother recovers from his ankle surgery.
James Johnson: "No longer a prisioner of Miami, and I owe it all to you."
Patrick Fraser: Not everyone loves South Florida. Thank goodness. It's crowded enough as it is. And why had Internal Affairs taken the officer's car and kept it locked? Right now, they aren't saying. But I think it's safe to say, if Internal Affairs impounds a police officers car, it's not to polish it for a parade to honor them."
Trapped by troubles that are tormenting you? Need a license to lose them? Contact us. We dont want to impound or compound. We just say we found a solution.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com