New Deferral Program for Unauthorized Immigrants Charged with NOL

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a Stanford University study suggesting that granting driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants improves overall traffic safety. That approach is not an option in North Carolina, where unauthorized immigrants have been ineligible to obtain a driver’s license, learner’s permit or identification card since 2006. Recognizing that many unauthorized immigrants drive regardless of whether they are licensed, the district attorney in Orange and Chatham Counties announced this week a new policy for disposing of no operator’s license charges against such drivers, provided they meet certain conditions.

The News and Observer reports that the district attorney’s office in Orange and Chatham Counties will dismiss charges of no operator’s license, a Class 3 misdemeanor, if the person charged is ineligible to be licensed for immigration-related reasons and he or she provides an identification card and completes a driving school and civics education course. Orange County Justice United, a nonprofit advocacy group that lobbied for the change, has posted this overview of the deferral program on its website.

The overview document states that the program will not be available to individuals charged with no operator’s license in conjunction with other charges or who are ineligible to be licensed due to prior revocations, moving violations, unpaid tickets, or other offenses. Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall told reporters that the program would provide driver’s education to a group of citizens who had not before received that type of instruction and would help to build trust between the law enforcement and immigrant communities.

“Faith-IDs” are listed in the overview as a preferred type of identification for unauthorized immigrants to provide to the district attorney’s office. These identification cards are issued by FaithAction, a Greensboro organization that launched an initiative in 2013 to provide identification cards to North Carolina residents who lacked access to government issued forms of identification. The Greensboro Police Department has publicly supported the FaithAction’s efforts, sending Spanish-speaking officers to identification card events.

In 2016, more than 121,766 people were charged statewide with driving without a license. Slightly more than 2,000 people were charged with this offense in Orange and Chatham Counties last year. Orange County Justice United reports that 77 percent of drivers charged with no operator’s license in Orange and Chatham Counties from 2008 to 2015 were Latino. They did not report how many of these drivers would have been eligible for deferral under the new program.

In addition to avoiding a misdemeanor record, defendants whose charges are dismissed under the deferral program will not be assessed the $190 in court costs that apply to conviction of a misdemeanor Chapter 20 offense or the $50 fine that typically accompanies a no operator’s license conviction.

9 thoughts on “New Deferral Program for Unauthorized Immigrants Charged with NOL”

  1. This ought to last until some atty representing a good old American who can’t get this “deal” files a motion based on the discriminatory action by Mr. Woodall excluding citizens!

  2. Looks to me like we have some district attorneys in Orange and Chatham Counties who need to be reminded of their oaths of office to uphold the LAWS of the State of N.C. as well as the Constitution of the U.S.


    It is now your civic duty to report any illegal aliens that you suspect are illegally present in our nation. For the safety of our children and elderly we just can’t allow illegal aliens to continue to remain in our country. It’s just too dangerous.

    There are several ways of making a report to ICE about suspected illegal aliens and it is also possible to make an anonymous report to protect your identity so that you can’t be troubled or fired by quirky liberals or unpatriotic Democrats.

    Online Email: You can go online to and make your report. You do not have to give any personal information if you don’t want to and can simply put ‘Anonymous’ or ‘N/A’ in the personal information fields. You can easily access this link from a library computer or other public computer if you fear being identified by your boss. Under the column ‘Suspected Violation’ you will generally choose Fugitive Criminal Alien unless you have information that applies to another choice available.

    Telephone: Anonymous tips may be reported to ICE via the toll-free HSI Tip Line, (866) 347-2423 [1-866-DHS-2-ICE] or TTY for hearing impaired at (802) 872-6196.

  3. This is utterly absurd. How can anyone associated with enforcing the law, as it is written, agree to this? When people decide to not enforce the law, in certain cases, it leads to abuse and discrimination. The law should be plainly written and enforced in the same way, regardless of who the charged person is. That is the only way that ALL people are treated the same under the law. By giving a certain group of people a pass on the law, the law cannot be enforced fairly across the board. What about an African American or a white person that does not have a license? Different Standard?

    • I believe the idea here is to not punish someone for violating a law which they are unable to comply with in the first place; i.e., being prohibited from obtaining a license. People need to drive and we shouldn’t punish them for participating in a normal activity when we don’t allow them to legally engage in that activity in the first place. An “African American or a white person that does not have a license” is not unlicensed because the government tells them they can’t be. They either chose to never get a license in the first place, or their license was suspended/revoked because they broke other laws.

      • First of all Eric it is quite well established in N.C. law that acquiring a driver’s license is a PRIVILEGE and certainly NOT a right. And no, no one ‘needs’ to drive. There are always other options like the bus, a taxi, or mommy and daddy. You whole argument fails sir.

    • I agree, the law should be enforced in the same way regardless of the person’s race. However, it must be applied the same way to similarly situated people. In this case, it’s about immigration status rather than race. Thus, a black or white person who is not eligible to obtain a NC DL due to their immigration status will qualify under the same deferred prosecution arrangement as a similarly situated Hispanic person. Our legislature needs to allow undocumented people to be able to obtain a NC license. Most of these folks are hard working people with America born children who are citizens of this county. All they are trying to do is work and allow their children to live the American Dream. Not being able to possess a valid license is not going to prevent them from driving so that they can provide for their families. Not allowing them to have a valid license is allowing law enforcement to racial profile people on the road, pull them over and issue a citation. It clogs up the court system and imposes financial hardship on unlicensed drivers because they are not able to obtain a license due to their immigration status. For law enforcement, it’s a lot like shooting fish in a barrel. America is a melting pot of immigrants. That is part of what makes this country special. From 1892 until 1954 Europeans immigrated to the U.S. and came through Ellis Island. Some of them were able to immediately obtain U.S. citizenship and enjoy all the rights and privileges of any other American citizen. Why not now for Hispanics? A long time ago, the Europeans immigrated to North America and took over Indian land. Aren’t we all in one way or another immigrants in the eyes of Native Americans? It’s my opinion that this deferred prosecution program is a step in the right direction.

  4. Just a point of clarification in light of some of the comments: the overview document linked above states that the deferral program applies not only to individuals who are unable to legally obtain a North Carolina Driver’s License on account of immigration status, but also to individuals unable to obtain a license on account of “financial situation, or other relevant criteria (as determined by the District Attorney’s Office).” This doesn’t necessarily support or refute any of the arguments above, but it’s something worth noting as the debate continues.


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