Sheehan

Free again? Not on the road

Staff WriterJune 30, 2010 

You'd think Greg Taylor had already journeyed through the deepest circles of hell. He'd been convicted of a murder he didn't commit. He'd served 17 years in prison. He'd lost his wife and missed his daughter's childhood before finally, finally having his conviction overturned.

But ... he hadn't yet tangled with the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.

Taylor was cleared in February by the historic action of a three-judge panel authorized by the state Innocence Commission. He was pardoned by Gov. Bev Perdue. On Monday, he was awarded three-quarters of a million dollars for his ordeal. (That's $50,000 a year for 15 years - the number of years at which damages are capped. I guess the other two years were undeserving of recompense?)

Yet he had unfinished business.

See, Taylor's license had been revoked in 1989 for driving while intoxicated. He would have gotten it back long ago except for one small detail: He was behind bars.

So after his release, Taylor, now 48, set about restoring his driving privileges. First step was an alcohol and drug assessment. Cost: $100.

"The guy who was my counselor had been sober 15 years," said Taylor, who has been clean for more than 17.

Next, Taylor paid $400 to attend DWI classes. Then came two hearings at the DMV.

At the second, he was told by the hearing officer, yes, he could have his license back. He wouldn't even have to pay for the ignition "interlock" device that acts as a Breathalyzer every time the driver tries to start the car.

"It seemed like a victory," Taylor said. It seemed that way until he came to the part that made him want to pound his head on concrete.

Among the restrictions, he would be authorized to drive only from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. And the restrictions would last for five years.

Taylor's lawyer, Christine Mumma, went so far as to offer for Taylor to have the interlock installed if it meant he could drive 24 hours a day. The hearing judge said the interlock is so sensitive to false positives it might set off if Taylor had a Mountain Dew and honey bun.

The hearing officer also cautioned that if Taylor refused the conditions of his new license, he would need to wait a full year before being able to appeal for a license again.

"There is no one I've talked to who doesn't say, 'That's ridiculous,' " Mumma said.

Still, she understands that DMV is trying to be cautious about a long-untested driver. DMV spokeswoman Marge Howell said any driver can request a modification of restrictions.

Mumma said that after six months or a year, she hopes to persuade the DMV to restore Taylor's full driving privileges.

Taylor wants no sympathy. After 17 years of false imprisonment, he just wants to drive when and where he desires.

"Being able to come and go as you please," he said. "That's what freedom's all about."

Between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., of course.

ruth.sheehan@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4828

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