News release from Department of Safety:
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security today announced that the average wait time at state driver services centers has decreased so far this year compared to 2012.
The average wait time from January 1 – June 30 at centers statewide, excluding reinstatement centers, fell from 34 minutes in 2012 to 31.5 minutes in 2013. There was a slight increase, however, from the first quarter of 2013 in which the average wait time was 30.5 minutes compared to the second quarter when the wait time averaged 32 minutes.
The decrease in wait time for the first six months happened while the number of statewide transactions at driver services centers increased. Driver license examiners served 621,405 customers from January 1 – June 30, 2012. In the first six months of 2013, the number of customers grew to 626,211.
“We are monitoring these figures very closely. Reducing the wait time at our driver service centers is a priority so when we experience an increase we act immediately to identify the reasons,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.
The average wait time at driver service centers in the state of Tennessee for the first quarter of 2013 was nearly 32 minutes, which is up six minutes from the last quarter of 2012, reports Nooga.com.
These figures, released by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Wednesday, also show that the number of statewide transactions increased to 327,114 in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 295,444 in the last quarter of last year.
But the wait time for the first quarter of 2013 is slightly lower than the average wait time for last year’s first quarter, when the average was closer to 33 minutes.
“We are committed to reducing wait times at our driver service centers,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in a prepared statement. “We are concerned about the uptick in wait times, especially after making such great progress in the last three months of 2012. But we are taking proactive steps to help reverse this trend and help create a more satisfying experience for our customers.”
Gibbons also said that the increase was because of an increase in handgun permit applications, vacant management positions at several driver service centers and equipment failures. Meanwhile, in other news….
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state is closing its driver license center in Lawrenceburg.
An announcement from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said operations will be merged with the driver service center in Columbia on May 15.
There will be, however, a self-service kiosk in the City of Lawrenceburg Administrative Services Building, where drivers can renew expiring licenses or apply to get lost licenses replaced. The kiosk will take photos and accept credit card and debit card fee payments.
First-time drivers or people who recently moved to Tennessee can travel to Columbia or to centers in Hardin or Lincoln counties.
The department is also working with the Wayne and Giles county clerks to offer license renewal and replacement services in those counties.
State lawmakers thought a 2011 bill allowing revocation of driver’s licenses for deadbeats who failed to pay criminal fines and court costs would reap millions in reinstatement fees, reports the Chattanooga TFP. But seven months into the first year of operation, only nine counties are complying and the state has collected just $22,425. The shortfall has left a gaping hole in the department’s budget, Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said last week.
“The department is requesting $7.6 million in supplemental funding for the current fiscal year in order to correct the overestimate of driver’s license reinstatement fees,” Gibbons told Senate Transportation Committee members.
The law requires county court clerks to notify the state of scofflaws who’ve gone at least a year without paying anything toward fines and costs. The department then revokes their licenses until they start to pay up.
Tennessee charges $65 for each license reinstatement plus an additional fee for the license.
Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk Gwen Tidwell is among those participating. So are clerks in the three other largest counties — Davidson, Knox and Shelby.
A number of counties are “working on methods to provide notices electronically” to the state, Gibbons said.
A former Tennessee Department of Safety official apologized to a federal judge Friday for selling state driver’s licenses and said his history of a clean record and military service justified a lighter sentence, according to The Tennessean. Larry Murphy, 54, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and will forfeit $69,500 for accepting money as a state official in turn for issuing driver’s licenses without administering the proper tests. Anny Castillo, 31, received three months in prison and nine months of home detention and will forfeit $42,500 for bribing Murphy and for selling U.S. birth certificates. Each faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“I am very ashamed of creating an awkward and embarrassing situation for my wife and kids,” Murphy told U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp. “I have lost my pride, dignity and respect of my family, friends and neighbors all because I did something stupid.”
Murphy’s attorney, Craig Fickling, asked Sharp to consider Murphy’s 21-year service in the military and that he had no prior criminal history.
Sharp agreed that Murphy’s decisions, which Murphy said were based out of financial concerns for his family, were “out of character,” but said his military service would not factor into a reduced sentence.
“In some sense you can look at that military service and go, ‘He knew better,’ ” Sharp said.
Castillo, speaking through an interpreter and tears, said she made a mistake when she bought her own license from Murphy and fell into a growing scheme through fear and pressure from others who wanted licenses. She asked for probation out of concerns for her three children, saying, “I don’t even want to imagine what would happen if they were left all by themselves.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new law requiring Tennessee residents 60 years of age or older to have a photo on their driver’s license is among those that take effect on Tuesday, though its sponsor says those who don’t already have them won’t be required to go get them.
Sen. Jim Tracy, the legislation’s sponsor, said for some reason those individuals were exempted when the law was passed years ago requiring photos on driver’s licenses.
“We went back and researched the law and could not find a reason why they were exempted, so we decided to close the gap and make it the same for everyone,” said the Shelbyville Republican.
He said those seniors who don’t have a photo on their license before Tuesday won’t be required to get one.
“They can keep it the same; we didn’t want to inconvenience them,” Tracy said.
However, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis said the new requirement does pose an inconvenience to seniors with mobility issues, or those in rural areas, who may be unable to get to the proper location to make the change.
Kyle said they were exempted when the measure requiring photos on driver’s licenses first passed because the legislation was aimed at preventing teenagers from using fake identification to purchase alcohol.
“That’s what drove that issue,” he said. “Someone who is 60 years old is not going to look younger than 21 in order to purchase alcohol.”
A Tennessee state employee charged with giving licenses to unqualified applicants pleaded guilty today to federal bribery counts in federal district court in Nashville, reports The Tennessean. The defendant, Larry Murphy, 54, who worked for the Department of Safety, had been accused of issuing state drivers licenses in exchange for more than $5,000 in bribes over five months ending in April.
U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp told Murphy, of Antioch, that he faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.
In April, federal prosecutors filed a complaint against Murphy after an investigation found that he was connected to a person suspected of selling identification documents to undocumented immigrants.
According to the complaint, when an undercover FBI agent sought from Murphy a commercial driving license without a Social Security number, Murphy made one up.
Murphy also fabricated the agent’s medical certification by altering information from another applicant, according to the complaint.
The undercover agent paid Murphy $3,500 through a third party.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A woman who couldn’t obtain photo identification and didn’t think she’d be able to vote was allowed to through a rarely used exemption in Tennessee’s new voter ID law.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/Shkz4U ) reported 56-year-old Cora Beach voted Thursday by signing an affidavit that she is “indigent and unable to obtain proof of identification without paying a fee.”
In doing so, Beach was able to take advantage of a clause that exempts voters who claim religious objections to being photographed or to the indigent.
Beach visited driver vehicle centers in Davidson County three times recently, only to have her application to acquire a photo ID turned down. She lacked marriage licenses, including one from Ohio, to allow officials to trace her birth name of Cora Jones to her current name.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Department of Safety will open eight driver service centers Saturday to help voters who need photo identification cards before the Tuesday general election.
Centers will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Chattanooga, Cookeville, Dresden, Jackson, Johnson City, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville. Services that day will be limited to issuing free photo IDs to registered voters and converting non-photo driver’s licenses to a version with a picture.
A release from the Safety Department said the centers were chosen based on population and response to Saturday openings before the August primary election.
As of Monday, Tennessee had issued more than 24,000 photo IDs to voters, who this year are required to show photo identification at polling places.
Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security: http://www.tn.gov/safety
The Tennessean has a story of a Nashville woman’s efforts to get a photo ID for voting. Cora Beach, 56, who lives in public housing in East Nashville and requires regular dialysis for kidney failure, has so far been unsuccessful. On her initial trip to a Davidson County driving center, Beach lacked a required birth certificate to prove citizenship. She quickly fixed that by having one sent from her native Selma, Ala.
But Beach was turned away again last week and a third time Tuesday — at separate driving centers — even though she displayed her birth certificate, apartment rental lease and Social Security, Medicaid and Davidson County voting cards.
Those documents more than met the state’s requirement of two documents to prove residency. But there’s one final document Beach must produce, and, so far, she hasn’t been able to: her two marriage licenses, including one from Toledo, Ohio.
…Michael Hogan, director of the Department of Safety’s Driver Service Division, said driving center workers are following the correct protocol in Beach’s situation by trying to match her birth certificate to her proof of Tennessee residency.
“Those documents have to line up,” he said. “What happens is, particularly with women, whenever they marry, their legal name is now the name of their husband.”
Hogan says marriage certificates, divorce decrees or certified court orders are used to “bridge that gap” of identity from a maiden name to current last name
Beach, who claims on one occasion she waited at the driving center for two hours only to be turned down, described her ordeal in one word: “hell.”
A Tennessee bill that requires police to arrest people involved in serious car accidents but don’t have a driver’s license and proof of insurance is awaiting the governor’s signature, reports the Chattanooga TFP. A companion bill, one that would set a higher bail for those who, in addition to being involved in the serious accident, turn out to be in the country illegally, is still in the House Finance Subcommittee, according to its sponsor, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas. The bill is set to be heard next week.
Carr said both bills were prompted by an accident in the Nashville area two years ago in which a motorcyclist was killed and his daughter injured when a driver switched lanes without seeing them.
The driver, who didn’t have a driver’s license or insurance, was given only a citation for driving without a license, a misdemeanor. He also was suspected of being in the country illegally, but police weren’t able to determine whether that was true because officers only can check someone’s legal status once the person is arrested.
“Basically, the bill says a police officer shall arrest the individual in such cases where they don’t have a driver’s license or proof of insurance and serious bodily injury or death occur,” said Carr.
— Note: The first bill referenced is HB2466, entitled “The Ricky Otts Act.” The second is HB2678.