Falling through the cracks of the criminal justice system shouldn't earn anyone a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Or, in the case of thousands of York County defendants, it doesn't mean they shouldn't have to serve mandatory license suspensions.

These are people who, over the years, pleaded guilty or were convicted of certain drug offenses that carried automatic six-month license suspensions.

Unfortunately, employees in York County Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell's office did not notify the state Department of Transportation of the resolution of their cases, so the defendants' driving privileges were never revoked.

O'Shell only recently became aware of the mistakes, and he's still trying to figure out exactly how many people are affected.

So far, clerks have reviewed cases as far back as 2007 and found PennDOT wasn't properly notified of about 2,600 cases out of 16,500, of just under 16 percent of affected drug-related cases. The office plans to review cases dating back to 2004, and O'Shell expects the number to grow to about 4,000 cases.

That would be about 4,000 people who never completed their sentences — albeit through no fault of their own.

They might have fulfilled all the other conditions, cleaned up their acts and moved on with their lives.

And now they're losing their licenses, perhaps years after their offenses.

Those affected can appeal — and some are, according to the county prothonotary's office — but in the past PennDOT has only had to show a delay was not its fault, and the suspension was upheld.


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These people are understandably upset, but the courts can't just say, "Oh, never mind."

And what would they tell defendants who didn't benefit from a mistake and actually lost their licenses? "Too bad"?

There is no good resolution to this — but state Rep. Stan Saylor might have a decent compromise.

O'Shell says the Windsor Township Republican, who's also the majority whip, is considering legislation that would allow the forgotten defendants to maintain "bread and butter" licenses that would allow them them to drive to and from work while they serve their suspensions.

The Legislature would have the final say, but we think it's fair.

Justice is still served — but with a side of understanding.