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Monday, April 21, 2014
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Published: 10/2/2004

A license to kill

A LOOPHOLE in the use of the National Driver Register, which tracks drunken drivers' license suspensions in each state and the District of Columbia, should be fixed quickly if people denied the right to drive in one state are to be barred from a license in another.

The states use the registry to check whether license applicants have outstanding warrants or suspensions elsewhere. But a window of opportunity for drunken drivers has been uncovered in the time it takes some prosecutors to file data to motor vehicle departments and for those offices to pass them on. There are 50 states, each with its own procedures. That must end.

The case of one serial drunken driver, professional football player Eric Warfield, is a case in point. Arrested for driving under the influence earlier this month after his Kansas license had been suspended, he was found to have a Nebraska license. He got it two weeks after pleading no contest to his second offense in Kansas, five days before his conviction and one-year driving suspension hit the National Register.

Mr. Warfield's problem with alcohol had to have been obvious for at least three years. Why haven't he, the courts, and his own team, the Kansas City Chiefs, dealt with it?

He was arrested in Kansas on Dec. 18, 2001, and March 13, 2003. The third time was Sept. 20. Who knows how many other times he was a danger to others but wasn't caught?

One might fault Mr. Warfield for personal ethics. He had to know he shouldn't be driving. But he owns a home in Nebraska and could lawfully apply for a license there. The system designed to keep him off the road just didn't work. At the same time, in getting that license, he didn't do himself any favors. He now faces jail if convicted, and the National Football League might suspend him.

Of greater public concern is the fact that it took from June 19, 2003, when Mr. Warfield entered his second plea and lost his license, until July 1, 2003, for the court to notify the Kansas DMV of court proceedings. He got his Nebraska license, his record clear, on July 2.

That's untenable in this age of computers and instant communication.



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