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Last updated on Tuesday, July 31, 2012
(BLOOMINGTON) - When Leslee Orndorff pled guilty to driving without a license in 2004, she was supposed to face a 10-year prohibition on having an Indiana driver’s license.
But due to a computer error, the 10-year suspension will start now, eight years after her last conviction and four years after the Bureau of Motor Vehicles granted the Bloomington resident a license.
After Orndorff found out in April she could lose her license for crimes she committed nearly a decade ago, she filed a lawsuit against the BMV with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.
Orndorff says she did break the law, but having her license suspended after 8 years is irrational. The BMV's hands are tied, though, says Dennis Rosebrough, deputy commissioner for external affairs.
According to Indiana law, drivers who commit a certain number of severe infractions, including driving without a license, must be classified as "habitual traffic violators."
After Orndorff's third encounter with police in 2004, she should have been placed on this list. She wasn't, though, so there were no barriers to her obtaining a license in 2008.
But the BMV is obligated to move people who have slipped through the cracks onto the HTV list and suspend their licenses for 10 years, no matter how long ago the infractions took place.
If Orndorff loses the case and her license is revoked, she'll likely lose her job as a home caregiver for senior citizens, and she'll have no means of taking her 7- and 11-year-old daughters to their school, which does not provide transportation.
"I'm a single mom with two kids. I'm trying to better myself and my life. I was young and stupid when this happened," she said. "Dragging kids on a bus, that's not really a type of life I want."
Orndorff isn't the only Indiana resident facing a license suspension years after the last conviction. Her record was found in a BMV audit that uncovered 400 other names that should have been on the HTV list and weren't.
In addition to Orndorff's case, the ACLU of Indiana is providing counsel for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of other residents caught in the same audit.
"It's that database they've come up with at the BMV and how it's getting people in its grasp that would not have normally been targeted," ACLU Director of Communications and Education Kelly Jones Sharp said.
It isn't only people driving without a license who are supposed to be put on the list, though. It also includes anyone whose driving has caused injury or death twice in 10 years and those who have been caught driving with a blood alcohol content of more than .08 twice in 10 years, Rosebrough says.
"This status is not applied to someone who gets a speeding ticket every seven years," he said. "These are people who have done dangerous or severe major offenses with their vehicle."
However, Orndorff says she has tried to turn her life around since moving to Bloomington in 2008. She's raising her children without child support, and she expects to graduate from Ivy Tech Community College in December with a degree in criminal justice.
"Basically, I kind of blame it on being stupid," she says. "I started driving without having a license. If I would've had a license, I would've been fine."
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