War vet faces double jeopardy for 44-year-old crime

A display of photos and mementos from Smith's time in the Air Force. / Jessica Fairley


Richard Smith, a Vietnam War vet, says he's now able to drive after having to battle Illinois driving officials over getting his license.

Smith had his name placed on a national driving registry for a 44-year-old DUI charge.

Back in 1968 he paid a fine and served jail time for the crime, but after years with no problems his license were suspended.

After reaching out to the office of Georgia's District 8 Congressman Austin Scott, he was able to reach an agreement, but that didn't come without a cost.

"I think it's crying shame that you have to pay $500 to get your license back on a 24-year-old incident, but I can spend good money after bad fighting it, but I got my license in my pocket now," said Retired U.S. Air Force MSGT Richard Smith.

Smith says now he'll be able to participate in upcoming auto racing events.

Original Story:

A Vietnam War veteran says a crime he committed over 40 years ago has come back to haunt him.

Richard Smith says his case is not unique, but it is the oldest of its type for the state of Georgia.

After a tour in the Vietnam War, Richard Smith, a mechanic for the U.S. Air Force, had a run in with the law in Rantoul, Illinois.

"I had two counts of fleeing and eluding police officers and driving across private property," says U.S. Air Force Retired MSGT Richard L. Smith.

The case made headlines back in 1968.

"I've already paid my $500 fine and spent 15 days in jail and was court marshaled by the Air Force while I was in jail. I think I've paid my dues to society," says Smith.

Now 44 years later, after having no problems with renewing his license, the state of Georgia is refusing to grant Smith a license until he has proof of clearance in this case.

The resident of Fitzgerald, Georgia says in between the last time he renewed his license and now, his name was placed on a national registry for people who have outstanding fines.

After contacting Illinois driving officials, they explained that it will be months before the issue could be resolved. However, to speed up the process, Smith reached out to Austin Scott., U.S. Representative for Georgia's 8th Congressional District.

"Representative Scott's office is working with Mr. Smith to see what we can do with the situation. We will continue to be in touch with Mr. Smith on this issue," says Cassie Smedile, Communications Director for the office of Austin Scott.

Richard Smith says Illinois officials have informed him that it will take six to eight months to resolve this problem. Until then he will be without a license. It's something that he says puts a burden on himself and his family.

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