INDIANAPOLIS — A Bloomington woman is suing Indiana's Bureau of Motor Vehicles in a bid to keep her driving privileges, arguing that the agency waited too long to suspend her license after she was deemed a habitual traffic offender and that doing so now would endanger her family's welfare.
Leslee Orndorff earned her habitual offender status in 2004 following three convictions for driving without a license, making her subject to a 10-year license suspension, according to the lawsuit filed by Orndorff and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.
The BMV never mailed Orndorff a notice, and she didn't realize she could lose her license for 10 years, the suit says. In 2008, she received a driver's license and went to work as a caregiver for a home health care agency. Her job requires her to drive to visit clients in their homes, to take them to doctors' appointments and to help them go grocery shopping, the documents say.
In May, the BMV suspended Orndorff's license, and a Monroe County judge last month declined to bar the agency from enforcing the suspension. The ACLU is appealing that decision and attorney Ken Falk said this week that the suspension is temporarily on hold.
"There is no doubt that the BMV was entitled to suspend Ms. Orndorff's license in 2004," the ACLU said in a court brief. "The question is whether the BMV's extreme and prejudicial delay in waiting to do so until 2012 prevents the BMV from doing so now."
"The BMV's action at this point, given that Ms. Orndorff has been licensed and driving legally for years, is simply irrational and violates due process," the ACLU added. There is no evidence that Orndorff is an unsafe driver, the organization said.
BMV spokesman Dennis Rosebrough said Tuesday that a lawyer for the agency was reviewing the case.
Court documents say that Orndorff, who is the sole provider for her two children, receives no child support and receives housing assistance through the Bloomington Housing Authority. In December, she is set to complete her studies in criminal justice at Ivy Tech, and must drive to campus. Beginning this fall, she also will have to drive her children to a private school they will be attending through the state school voucher program, the ACLU said.
Without a driver's license, Orndorff will lose her job and be unable to support her family, the ACLU said. "Throwing a family into poverty is most assuredly not in the public interest," it argued.
Marion Circuit Judge E. Michael Hoff last month denied the ACLU's request to bar the BMV from suspending Orndorff, but Falk said Hoff did give the ACLU time to appeal.
Hoff said in a court order that throwing Orndorff's family into hardship was a serious enough threat to the public interest to justify changing the rules for her benefit. He also wrote that the BMV's failure to act in 2004 was understandable because at that time, Orndorff didn't have a driver's license to suspend.
The Indiana Court of Appeals has received the appeal, but hasn't set a date yet to hear arguments in the case, according to the court's online docket.