Oklahoma man fights for right to drive
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
You do the crime you do the time, or so the saying goes; but what if the "time" doesn't end after the debt to society is paid?
When you're convicted of a crime the sentence a judge hands down is only part of the consequences convicts face. One Oklahoman has battled an addiction and the odds to find survival after prison and he's now working to try and change the system that could be creating criminals instead of helping people like him succeed.
Inside his home, Chris Goodgion has textbooks for his classes as he prepares to finish up his bachelor’s degree. From the outside he appears to be living the American dream, but his dream now is a far cry from the nightmare he was living less than a decade ago.
“I woke up,” Goodgion recalls thinking, “I realized I had two small children that needed me and I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in prison so I made a decision and I sobered up.”
It was methamphetamine that had taken control of Goodgion's life. He got hooked on the drug that is known for its addictive and often life-destroying effects just after leaving military service. He had served two tours of duty in Iraq and soon found himself addicted and in trouble with the law.
On paper, Goodgion looks bad. He had multiple arrests for drug crimes. He would pick up a new charge almost no sooner than he was let out of jail after being arrested for drugs.
“Bonding right out, coming right out of jail all you're thinking about is getting high again you're not locked up long enough to actually sober up get clear thought,” Goodgion said.
It was his second time in prison when he decided enough was enough. When he got out he changed his environment, and took control of his life.
Goodgion has been sober for eight years.
He had recommendations for his parole from state officials including former Attorney General Drew Edmondson who wrote about the good work Goodgion did to help spread the message about the dangers of drugs.
Once out of prison, Goodgion knew he was not going back.
“I just put one foot in front of the other getting a job going to school got custody of my children,” he said of his work to prove his past was in his past.
“I went to Department of Public Safety to get my driver’s license they told me my driver’s license was suspended.”
Suspended until 2021, because while the court ordered his convictions to run together for his license purposes they are separated. Goodgion pled guilty to drug crimes, but the Department of Public Safety says it was the way the court clerk wrote up the case tagged his license. As far as DPS is concerned Goodgion was using a motor vehicle to commit a crime.
He was charged with possession with the intent to distribute. It’s the “intent” part that is his problem now. The law has a hard line cutoff as to what counts as personal use drugs and if you have more drugs on you than that amount, even a small amount, the state can accuse you of selling drugs. Goodgion said he was not selling drugs when he was arrested, he was just an addict. He pled guilty to his drug crime thinking it was time to take responsibility for his crime. The license suspension was not part of the judge’s sentence.
“This is a life changer it makes life impossible if you don't have a support system if you don't have someone to help you and pick you up and take you to work and take you to the grocery store how are you supposed to live?” Goodgion asked.
Goodgion looked for help from the courts to the governor and lawmakers, but help wasn't there.
“I was just being told I didn't matter and that bothered me quite a bit.”
“Within reason, yes there is an attempt at the capitol to help people who have paid their debt to society and are trying to do the right thing,” said Senator Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate.
Senator Brecheen's bill from a past session came the closest to helping. It offered ex-cons a payment plan for license reinstatement.
“After that individual is in good standing, completed their sentence and in good standing with the law and they have paid their debt to society, what we found was some of these people are struggling to find employment and part of that is the ability to drive,” Brecheen told FOX 25.
However, the DPS rules do not even allow Goodgion a chance to pay a reinstatement fee.
He has a boss now who will pick him up for work, and loved ones who can take him grocery shopping.
“If a normal person is driving under suspension they'll just pay a ticket,” Goodgion told FOX 25, “If I get caught driving under suspension they could put me back in prison for 10 years. I can't risk that.”
All he wants is a work permit. The same type of license a drunk driver could get to stay behind the wheel. In fact, Oklahoma laws make it theoretically possible for someone to have killed someone while driving intoxicated and get their license back sooner than Goodgion.
Goodgion is not giving up. He fought for his sobriety. He proved to the state and child welfare he could be a father again. He is working on his education. He has served his country. Now his fight is for himself and others like him who have served their time, but now need the ability to drive to keep from falling back into the same patterns that got them in trouble in the first place.
“Walk in a felon's shoes for about a month and see how easy it is.”