Live 5 Investigates: Driving under suspension

Live 5 Investigates: Driving under suspension

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Every day you're on the road, there could be illegal drivers sharing the highway with you. Recent reports shows drivers with a suspended license causing all sorts of accidents. One involved a man with a suspended license crashing a truck into a pool at a home in Mount Pleasant. Another incident involved a habitual traffic offender driving drunk and hitting a transformer on Chuck Dawley.

But in October, 2007, Kelley Dehay was driving home with her three-and-a-half year old daughter, Kasey Heger, and her six-year-old son and were only an eighth of a mile from the house when a drunk driver plowed into her driver's side.

Dehay and her son survived, however little Kasey did not.

"My daughter was killed instantly from the impact," Dehay says.

The man who killed Kasey was 56-year-old Bobby Minnick. Dehay soon learned Minnick never should have been behind the wheel in the first place. At the time his license was suspended and he had been arrested more than five times for driving without a license.

"It was ridiculous because he had no business being on the road. He hadn't had a license since 1981," Dehay says.

Records show lots of other people driving with suspended licenses who get arrested over and over again. For example, 30-year-old Ian Matthews of Goose Creek has been charged with driving under suspension seven times. And 29-year-old Robert Green of North Charleston has also been charged with the same offense seven times.

So what motivates these people to keep breaking the law?

Charleston attorney Drew Carroll says in many cases, their car is the only way to get to work and provide for their families.

"They see themselves with no choice but to take the risk to drive," Carroll says.

He says some offenders may see it as a game of "catch me if you can."

"I think it probably is. There are those who have gone down the road and realized that if they avoid detection, they can probably safely navigate the suspension," Carroll says.

"I stay in Jamestown and it's like 45 minutes away from work and the only way I can go to work is if I drive," Timothy McConnell, who has been jailed for driving under suspension, says.

"I drive to do what I have to do to be honest," says Michael Manigault, also jailed for driving under suspension.

When asked if he thinks he may hurt or even kill someone, Corey Morrison, another driver jailed for driving under a suspended license says no.

"The only thing I worry about is providing for my family because nobody else ain't gonna do it for me," he says. "I shouldn't have been on the road. If I did hurt or kill somebody, then the guilt would probably kill me."

A local prosecutor believes there's another reason so many people drive with suspended licenses. First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe says the penalties are too light and for offenders, it's worth the risk to take the chance. Pascoe wants the legislature to get tougher on them.

Under South Carolina law driving with a suspended license first offense carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and /or a $300 fine. A second offense carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and/or a $600 fine.

Three or more offenses carry a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,000 or house arrest for up to six months.

North Carolina's driving under suspension law is a bit tougher. For offenders with no prior convictions or up to four convictions, the maximum penalty is 45 days in jail. Offenders with five or more prior convictions face a maximum penalty of four months in jail.

Georgia's driving under suspension law is even tougher. First time offenders face a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Second and third time offenders face the same jail time with a fine up to $2,500. Offenders convicted of driving under suspension four or more times face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.

Dehay says she thinks her daughter would still be alive if driving under suspension laws were stronger back then.

"Absolutely. If there was a way to have kept him off the road, if he was put away like he should have been, then he wouldn't have been able to drive and get on the road and hurt my family," she says.

Bobby Minnick, the man who killed Kelly DeHay's daughter pleaded guilty to felony DUI involving a death and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Minnick is scheduled to be released in 2028.

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