'Trying to move forward:' Former offenders hit roadblocks at NCDMV because of COVID-19

GARNER, N.C. (WTVD) -- Derris McPhatter is taking steps to turn his life around during the era of COVID-19.

The 40-year-old father from Garner works a construction job in north Raleigh. Back in March at the start of the pandemic, he was released from prison after serving more than five years for felony drug and gun possession charges.

"It's a good transition back into society trying to move forward," McPhatter told ABC11.

But when COVID-19 struck, he hit a roadblock.

"I have a place to stay, an ample job, a vehicle, but due to the pandemic, I'm unable to get my license," McPhatter said.

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The spread of COVID-19 forced the state's DMV offices to suspend road tests until further notice.

"I was actually kind of upset about it and sad at the same time," McPhatter said.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed a COVID-19 relief bill earlier this month that extends deadlines for driver's licenses and registrations expiring after March 1 and before August.

But McPhatter's license expired in 2017 while he was incarcerated. Now, he's outside the window for online renewal.

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Since the nearest bus stop is a 30-minute walk from his home, he relies on his dad to get him to work by 7 each morning.

"People have their own things going on and their own lives to be taking me back and forth to work," McPhatter said.

"I just feel like something else needs to be done with someone like me that's an experienced driver. No accidents, no points, maybe they could just waive the whole thing," he said.

In Georgia, driving tests can now be made through appointments.

But last month, driving tests were waived by the state's governor, allowing 20,000 newly licensed 16- and 17-year-olds to hit the road.

Under Georgia's revised order, those waivers expire at the end of September.

In Tennessee, driving tests will resume next month.

Driving tests in South Carolina and Virginia are suspended.

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The North Carolina Department of Transportation said it is working with health leaders to determine when driving tests will be safe to resume in our state. But there is no timetable on when that would happen.

McPhatter hopes it is soon so he can move forward.

"My plan is to go to truck-driving school to get my CDLs and I can't even start school without a valid driver's license," McPhatter said. "That's holding me up."
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