Repeat unlicensed drivers face jail time in Suffolk

People who repeatedly drive without a valid license in Suffolk County face jail time, but critics say the law unfairly targets the Hispanic community.

People who repeatedly drive without a valid license in Suffolk County face jail time, but critics say the law unfairly targets the Hispanic community.

People who repeatedly drive without a valid license in Suffolk County face jail time, but critics say the law unfairly targets the Hispanic community. (7/7/15)

HOLBROOK - People who repeatedly drive without a valid license in Suffolk County face jail time, but critics say the law unfairly targets the Hispanic community.

The county has sent 39 people to jail for driving without a valid license since it set up its Traffic Violations Agency in 2013. County officials say the law is enforced when serious, repeat offenders are caught.

"To get to jail, you have to work very, very hard," says Paul Margiotta, the executive director of the Traffic Violations Agency. "You have to continue to violate the law, ignore the judge's warnings."

Margiotta says jail time has been a deterrent for unlicensed drivers.

However, critics tell Newsday that the policy unfairly targets Hispanic drivers. Long Island's Immigrant Alliance said in a statement that it welcomes an investigation into "the agency's pattern of jailing Latino drivers."

According to Newsday, critics also argue that the policy compounds the county's jail overcrowding problem. It costs $300 a day to keep inmates locked up.

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