Ocala resident Anthony Cummings, who is homeless, was arrested three times in 2012 and 2016 for violating Ocala’s open lodging ordinance, the legality of which Southern Legal Counsel and the ACLU of Florida are now challenging in a federal class action lawsuit in which Cummings is one of three named plaintiffs.
In Cummings case, however, another issue arose: his driver’s license was suspended for failure to pay court costs and fines for violating the municipal ordinances at issue.
"He was assessed a variety of court costs and fees that we did not believe were authorized under state law because they are fees for a misdemeanor or criminal cases, and a municipal ordinance violation is not a criminal case. It's a different case even though its heard in the criminal court," SLC attorney Chelsea Dunn told WCJB TV 20 after a hearing before the Marion County Court on the matter last July.
In that hearing, the court found in Cummings’ favor.
“After reviewing the arguments filed by Cummings and the Clerk, the Court finds that the Court’s suspension of Cummings’ driver’s license for failure to pay financial obligations for municipal ordinance violations was in error, not authorized by Florida law, and should be stricken from the Judgements,” the order stated.
The assignment of court costs was also found to be in error, and the court ordered the clerk to notify the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles of the court’s error and to work with the agency to correct the issue in Cummings’ and other municipal ordinance cases.
That process is now underway and will impact thousands of people whose licenses were unlawfully suspended.