Personal Narrative: Matthew

Matthew lives in Spring Hill, FL. His license has been suspended for seven years due to unpaid criminal court debt that he owes dating back to convictions as a youthful offender in 2006. Currently Matthew owes $6,653.87 in fines and fees between Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties. Because of Florida law, Matthew will have to pay off all of his fines and fees in order for him to get the multiple suspensions lifted from his license to enable him to legally drive again.

Matthew wants to pay his court debt and contacted the Hernando County Clerk’s Office to set up a payment plan but was told that it would be $147 per case to start a payment plan. Matthew owed money on 5 cases in Hernando County and it would have cost him $735 for him to start payment plans – an amount that was beyond his reach. His cases have now been sent to collections so a payment plan with the clerk’s office is no longer an option.

Matthew is currently a participant in the Hernando County Drug Court. His success in drug court is dependent on his ability to attend all of the required weekly appointments, including random drug screens, and without a valid driver’s license it is extremely challenging for him to do so. If he does not successfully complete the drug court program he will face a potential prison sentence along with the possibility of being assessed additional fines and fees and additional suspensions placed on his license if he is unable to pay those fines and fees.

In addition to the challenges Matthew faces to be a successful participant in drug court he says that not having a driver’s license has also impacted his family and career. He has a wife as well as two sons, ages 6 and 7, who he says he would like to be able to take to school as well as take his family to do activities around town. Even though he is a plumber by trade, he is unable to work as a plumber since he is unable to drive to different jobs. He is currently underemployed as a cook at Denny’s due to his driver’s license suspension. He is a plumber but is unable to work in that profession due to the requirement of driving.