The Washington State Senate is considering SB 6490 which would decriminalize “DWLS 3” – Driving with a suspended license – 3rd degree. I suspect there may be a good motivation behind this bill, such as reducing bureaucratic costs for minor infractions. However, as a cyclist I get nervous about anything that removes or lessens penalties for driving with a suspended license. As such I sent the following letter to State Senator Randy Gordon regarding this bill:
I am attempting to make sense of the purpose behind SB 6490. As a frequent cyclist, I am against anything that would decriminalize driving with a suspended license. Driving with a suspended license is a serious infraction that should result in substantial consequences.
A good example is the case of Antonio Eugene Cellestine. On September 15th of last year Mr. Cellestine hit and killed Gordon Patterson, a teacher who was cycling home in Vancouver, Washington. Mr Cellestine, who was driving with a suspended license, admitted that he was texting on his cell phone at the time of the collision. I believe that Mr. Cellestine’s decisions to text message while driving his car with a suspended license shows a pattern of disregard for the law. This, to me, seems to be the definition of criminal behavior. Mr Cellestine was convicted of hit and run which resulted in a 5 year sentence. Sadly, this 5 year sentence was only due to the fact that Mr. Cellestine did not stay at the scene of the collision.
The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) has urged opposition to this bill but I am open to there being a reasonable motivation behind it. Can you explain to me how this bill will not ease the way for more tragic situations like I have described and why it is a good idea to decriminalize driving with a suspended license?