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Charges against Gainesville Middle School principal dismissed

Solicitor says name change often causes mistaken arrests

POSTED: July 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Charges have been dropped against a Gainesville Middle School principal who was arrested earlier this month for driving on a canceled license.

Gainesville Municipal Court Judge Hammond Law confirmed to The Times that he signed a request Thursday to dismiss charges against Audrey Simmons, principal of Gainesville Middle School’s Humanities Academy, stemming from her July 11 arrest.

Lee Parks, solicitor of Gainesville Municipal Court, said he asked Law to dismiss the case because Simmons provided documents to show that her arrest was a "bureaucratic error."

Parks said he sees similar cases at least once a month, and even his secretary had been affected by the issue. Parks said he usually moves to dismiss similar cases if defendants can prove that their license cancellation was a mistake.

Simmons was booked into the Hall County Jail after she was rear-ended by another vehicle on Old Flowery Branch Road near Browns Bridge Road on the morning of July 11. The responding officer discovered Simmons’ license had been canceled, Gainesville police Lt. Brian Kelly said.

The Department of Driver Services had canceled Simmons’ license in 2006 when the last name on her Social Security card did not match the one on her driver’s license. Simmons’ married name was listed on her driver’s license, but not on her Social Security card, her husband, Gainesville City Board of Education member Kelvin Simmons, told The Times.

Susan Sports, a spokeswoman for the Department of Driver Services, said in the five years since the agency has been running checks of names, 42,142 of Georgia’s 6.5 million licensed drivers have failed to resolve the discrepancy and had their licenses canceled.

Kelvin Simmons said that his wife of 31 years had not been notified that her driver’s license had been canceled, and Parks said that is common.

"Most times people don’t get any kind of notification that this has happened until they get stopped by a police officer," Parks said.

Sports said the Department of Driver Services mails notifications, but sometimes people who move and don’t change the address on their driver’s license — also a requirement under the law — won’t get the notice.

Audrey Simmons was released the same day of her arrest on a $1,352 bond, and had no record of prior arrests, according to police. Parks said Simmons’ bond will be repaid to her if she paid it in cash.

Staff writer Stephen Gurr contributed to this report.


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