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Personal Narrative: Rick Venable

Rick Venable is currently homeless and sleeping in the woods in Jacksonville as a result of a spiral he says started when he got divorced. He did not know his ex-wife had canceled his car insurance, which caused his driver’s license to be suspended. He learned his license was suspended when he was pulled over for non-moving violations in St. Johns County where he worked at the time. Because he worked in St. Augustine but lived in Jacksonville, he says that after learning about his suspended license, not driving was not an option for him — so he continued to drive and was subsequently pulled over for driving while license suspended (DWLS). Because he continued to drive for work, he was pulled over several times in St. Johns and Duval counties and ticketed for DWLS.

On April 10, 2019, Rick was pulled over and arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for DWLS (knowingly) and per the arrest and booking record, his vehicle was subject to forfeiture and was seized. Not only was Rick’s vehicle seized, but so were the contents which included tools that he estimates are valued at $6,000. Because his truck was seized, he lost his job. Rick was also living in his truck at the time it was seized, so he is now homeless and sleeping in a wooded area in Jacksonville.

Rick feels like there is no way out of this cycle that he feels stuck in and has lost hope of ever being back on his feet. He says that he is continually being punished for simply being poor and unable to afford the court fines and fees that continue to pile up against him. Rick wants to be a productive member of society and is not willfully not paying his fines and fees, he just cannot afford to do so without a job and asks how he is supposed to do so if he cannot get to work without a license, his truck, and his tools. He estimates that other than the DWLS fees he probably only owes $400 but when you add the DWLS tickets, court fees, and reinstatement fees he owes around $4000.

There is no way out of this cycle. I feel stuck, and I don’t have any hope of ever getting back on my feet. I am being punished for being poor and the court fines and fees just keep growing.  I will never understand why Florida would knowingly cause their residents to be trapped in poverty.

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