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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

People convicted with felonies now eligible for towing permits

Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously Monday night to allow people convicted of certain felonies to obtain towing permits.

The ordinance would now make people convicted of certain felonies eligible for towing permits after 10 years.

People convicted of capital or first-degree felonies, sexual battery or violent felonies involving guns or knives or causing great bodily harm would still be barred from towing permits forever.

"I'm hesitant to allow people who have committed violent crimes to take this public role," Commissioner Jack Donovan said.

The ordinance also requires a 10-year waiting period for people convicted of felonies or first-degree misdemeanors directly related to cars, such as car theft, car jacking or chop-shop activity. There is a five-year period for driving under the influence.

A tow operator for Superior Towing raised some of the first concerns for the felony restrictions. He said he has been a tow operator for 13 years.

At 18, he got in a fight that resulted in a felony that would take away his trespass-towing rights 20 years later.

"I don't think they intentionally try to put anyone out of work," he said of the ordinance. "I realize it's a safety issue."

The commission attempted to pass the ordinance quickly out of interest for tow operators such as him. Commissioners still plan to make a motion to the Committee for Public Safety to come up with an individual appeals process.

"It sounds like they're doing what they can," he said. "It's all I can ask."

Commissioners debated at length on what convictions could be overlooked in tow-truck drivers.

"Sometimes when you throw that net out, you catch good people," said Gainesville Police Department Lt. Peter Backhaus, who spoke at the meeting.

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Ron Combs, assistant city attorney, said that he was concerned that some people can never be rehabilitated.

"Is anyone in particular rehabilitated after 10 years, after 15 years, after 20 years?" he said. "I have no personal knowledge of that."

The ordinance needs to get through one more vote at the City Commission meeting Monday before it is passed.

Alligator Writer April Dudash contributed to this report.

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