By joe gorman
A man sentenced to 30 days in the Mahoning County jail earlier this week for his 17th conviction for driving without a license claimed his license was never taken from him in the first place.
Curtis Elder, 57, told Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Elizabeth Kobly that former Judge Louis Levy had never taken his license from him when he originally was charged with driving under suspension.
Judge Kobly said she did not believe him.
“You have 17 convictions for the same thing,” she said as Elder was being arraigned via video hookup Thursday from the Mahoning County jail.
“It’s because I can’t get my license back,” Elder answered.
A check of court records shows that Elder has traffic records dating back to 1997.
He was arrested for his latest offense about 10:50 p.m. Wednesday, when officers on patrol saw him driving a vehicle on Hilton Avenue near Erie Street, and for some reason, the vehicle stopped in the middle of the road, blocking traffic.
Elder admitted to the officer that he had a suspended license and he also was wanted on two warrants from municipal court for failure to appear.
Detective Sgt. Patricia Garcar, head of the police department’s Accident Investigation Unit, said Elder’s convictions are not surprising.
“There’s probably people with more,” Garcar said.
Garcar said a problem for drivers with suspended licenses is that they often get their licenses suspended and can’t pay the reinstatement fees, which add up to thousands of dollars the more times they get another arrest for a suspended license.
Magistrate Anthony Sertick said reinstatment fees and other costs vary according to the charges a driver is facing. Besides those fees, in many court cases, drivers must pay court costs and fines in addition to the fees before their licenses can be reinstated.
Garcar said for some drivers, they can’t afford to pay the original costs, and then they get more tacked on, especially people who are poor and who need to drive to get back and forth to work.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Garcar said.