2 NEWS Investigates: Dangers of driving under suspension

ARCANUM, Ohio (WDTN) – It’s the number one reason drivers get tickets in Montgomery County and we are not talking about speeding.

A 2 NEWS Investigation points to a serious accident that could have been avoided if the driver would have followed the law.

They’re on our roads daily but they shouldn’t be: drivers who have a suspended license.

In Ohio, thousands of people get their licenses taken away every year but we found that’s not keeping some people off the roads.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles clearly states that 25-year-old Billie Skeens should not be driving.

She’s been pulled over and cited for driving under suspension, failure to show a drivers license, and not having a driver’s license over and over.

All together her license has been suspended at least 7 times and she’s not getting it back any time soon because she keeps driving without it and getting caught.

The last time was in December. Skeens drove into14-year-old Cailynn Stephens who was in a school crosswalk on her way to Arcanum Middle School.

“You made a decision that morning and took no care, no concern, and no regard,” said Cailynn’s mom, Sara Stephens

Cailynn suffered brain trauma and is still recovering five months later. Skeens was found guilty of not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, reckless operation of a vehicle and driving under suspension.

“I did not mean for this to happen. I do understand I have a bad driving record,” said Skeens during her sentencing.

This accident should never have happened. Skeens shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. Once again, she didn’t have a valid license.

I don’t know how someone continuously is allowed to be let go, be let go, be let go. When and where do we hold that individual accountable?” exclaimed Stephens.

We wondered too, so we asked Miami County Judge Elizabeth Gutmann.

She was in charge of a case that happened just six days before the accident in Arcanumn when Skeens was pulled over for driving under suspension.

Gutmann sentenced Skeens to a fine after the accident in Arcanum and was well aware of Skeen’s driving record but didn’t give her jail time.

I asked why.

Natalie: How would you get these people to learn their lesson without any jail time?

Judge Gutmann: “The reality is though we don’t have the jail space for people who are driving with out a license.”

She said in this case the prosecutor agreed to a lesser charge.

We discovered that charge is part of newer sentencing guideline that comes with no jail time so Judge Gutmann couldn’t sentence it.

“I think it was done to try to relieve some of the burden on the court,” she said.

10 years ago those who were caught driving under suspension could face up to 6 months in jail.

Now, they’re more likely to get fined and must do community service.

The State Legislature made the change.

So we asked State Senator Bill Beagle how well this one is working.

Natalie: Do you think that the penalties for driving on a suspended license are strict enough in Ohio?

State Sen. Bill Beagle: “Well I think they need to be looked at. If you got people like this who are disregarding the suspension and are out there and are dangerous and so it’s incumbent on us to at least take a look at the law and see if it makes sense to make some adjustments.”

State Senator Beagle is working on a new law that would increase vehicular assault penalties in school zones after the accident in December.

He tells 2 NEWS Investigates it also might be time to re-evaluate driving under suspension penalties for repeat offenders like Billie Skeens.

Stephens said, “She should have never had the opportunity to enter our lives.”

Skeens was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail for hitting Stephens with her car.

She is supposed to be serving that right now, but according to the Darke County Court’s Office the jail was full and she has to re-schedule for a later date.

Skeen’s attorney declined any comment on the sentencing or charges.

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