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Maryland delegate seeks ‘emergency legislation’ to help drivers whose IDs are seized by police during move to ‘Real ID’

A state delegate is pledging to introduce “emergency legislation” to protect Marylanders whose drivers’ licenses could be seized by police as the the state moves to implement federal REAL ID laws.

About 8,400 out of the approximately 80,000 customers who were notified that they need to update their licenses to comply with the federal REAL ID laws have not yet responded, and state’s Motor Vehicle Administration has asked local police departments to confiscate flagged licenses from motorists they stop. The seizure is supposed to motivate the driver to go get the new ID.

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But Del. Eric Ebersole, a Democrat who represents parts of Howard and Baltimore counties, says he’s concerned police seizure of driver licenses will create problems because it’s illegal for motorists to drive without possessing a license.

In an August 8 letter to Maryland Motor Vehicle Administrator Christine Nizer, Ebersole said he’s working on emergency legislation to require police, after seizing a driver’s license, to leave the motorist with a legal document that can function as a temporary license permitting the motorist to drive to get new REAL ID-compliant license.

“I’m concerned,” Ebersole said. “We have a problem with law enforcement taking a license from a driver on the spot. We have laws that say you have to carry your license with you.”

Ebersole noted that the soonest his legislation can take effect is next year. So, he asked Nizer to make a policy change to address the problem before then.

Adrienne Diaczok, a spokesperson for the MVA, said state officials are reviewing Ebersole’s letter.

“We continue to work closely with law enforcement as well as our customers to ensure they are able to comply with the requirements of federal REAL ID Act,” she said. “We’ve made great strides getting customers into our offices to get their documents on file and have incorporated extended office hours, appointments, courtesy phone calls and reminders for appointments into our outreach plans.”

A REAL ID is driver’s license or identification card that meets heightened federal documentation requirements. Passed in 2005 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the REAL ID law created nationwide security standards for states to use in issuing driver’s licenses and identification cards for use at airports and federal buildings.

The Department of Homeland Security has set an Oct. 1, 2020, deadline for REAL ID compliance. But Maryland officials staggered the deadline for drivers to comply.

The MVA website has a lookup tool to check on a driver’s deadline for complying.

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