For the past couple of weeks, Custer County Sheriff’s Office employees have been handing out what amount to “get out of jail free” cards to motorists who can’t renew their expired driver’s licenses.

Local Sheriff’s Office dispatchers, who double as motor vehicle clerks, were doing this before personnel with the Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles issued an extension for Idahoans to renew their driver’s licenses. The motor vehicle division has been plagued with problems related to new software.

Idahoans whose licenses have recently expired have until Oct. 31 to renew their driver’s licenses.

Drivers whose licenses have expired get a copy of the Aug. 29 letter from DMV Administrator Alberto Gonzalez about the emergency extension. Drivers can show a copy of the letter and their expired license if they are stopped by a police officer.

There are exceptions to the extension. People whose driving privileges are suspended, commercial driver’s license holders who either don’t have a legal presence document on file with DMV or CDL drivers with expired hazmat endorsements can’t just show the letter and expect no ramifications, according to Gonzalez.

Some Custer County motorists, disgruntled because the license system that’s based in Boise hasn’t been working properly for weeks, took it out on Sheriff’s Office staffers who have no control over the system, said Custer County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Supervisor Linda Lumpkin.

Frustrated people have been saying “I need it, I have to have it,” but when the system crashed, dispatchers couldn’t do anything except hand out the “get out of jail free” cards.

“We feel for them, but it isn’t our fault,” Lumpkin said. A few have cussed at dispatchers, she said. “It’s frustrating for everyone.”

Lumpkin wishes the state had left well enough alone and kept the old system where local sheriff’s offices had full control to issue driver’s licenses. When software was updated about a year ago there were glitches that took the system down temporarily. As the bugs were worked out and everything was working right, another new system was implemented a couple of weeks ago. Sheriff’s Office staff trained on the new system a few weeks ago, Lumpkin said. The system did not work during their training session, Dispatcher Liz Preston said.

The new system came on line Aug. 13 in Challis and dispatchers were able to make it work for a while, with technical assistance from Boise. Jail Administrator Linda Dubiel was trying to issue a commercial driver’s license on Aug. 28. She was almost finished, having gotten to the point where she collected the money, when the system went down.

“It just quit and wouldn’t go any further,” Dubiel said.

Since then, it’s been impossible for Custer County to issue new driver’s licenses, Lumpkin said last week.

DMV officials announced an interim step where local sheriff’s offices could input customer information without communicating in real time with computers in Boise, but it never worked for Custer County, Preston said. The local Sheriff’s Office hasn’t issued a license for more than a week. By mid-morning Tuesday, Sept. 4, Preston had turned away another six customers wanting to renew their licenses.

Law enforcement officers across Idaho are aware of the problem, Dubiel said, so officers are not issuing citations for expired licenses.

When the situation is resolved, Sheriff’s Office personnel will put the word out to the public, Preston said. Then, she hopes, people will come in gradually to renew their driver’s licenses, instead of waiting until the last minute of the Oct. 31 extension.

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