INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles can't explain why it waited eight years to suspend a Bloomington woman's license, and revoking her driving privileges now could throw her family into poverty because her job requires that she drive, an appeals court ruled.
The state Court of Appeals reversed a Monroe County judge who denied Leslee Orndorff's request that he block the BMV from imposing a 10-year suspension stemming from her designation as a habitual traffic violator in 2004. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the request on her behalf in May, and the judge issued a temporary restraining order while the ACLU appealed his decision.
"The BMV has not presented any explanation as to why it took eight years to identify Orndorff as an HTV or why it issued her a driver's license for which she should have been ineligible," appellate Judge Terry Crone wrote in Wednesday's 22-page ruling.
The BMV had no immediate comment on Thursday.
Orndorff, 30, said in a phone interview Thursday that she was thrilled by the ruling, adding that she'd been pulled over Saturday while driving her daughters to visit their father and threatened with arrest over the HTV designation. She said the officer told her she'd been pulled over because her car door was open, but he finally let her go when he found proof online of the temporary restraining order.
"I said, 'Google me.' Thank God for Google," she said.
Orndorff was deemed a habitual traffic violator in 2004, following her third conviction for driving without a license. Those were among 17 driving convictions for non-moving violations, such as failing to provide proof of insurance, that she had accumulated in two years. During that time, her driving privileges had been suspended 18 times, according to the court ruling.
But she wasn't notified of her HTV status until the BMV double-checked its records after discovering a computer glitch earlier this year. In the interim, the agency issued her a valid driver's license in 2008, and she began working for a home health care service transporting patients to medical appointments and taking them shopping, according to court records.
The appeals court noted that Orndorff's employment and her participation in government programs designed to help people rise out of poverty depend on her having a valid driver's license. Taking that away now would be against the public interest because losing her job would throw her and her two young children back into the poverty, the judges said.
"Orndorff's job is the foundation supporting nearly everything that she, with the assistance of government agencies, is doing to lift her family out of poverty," the ruling said.