New Florida driver’s license law could impact people with Minnesota licenses later this year
Florida’s new out-of-state driver’s license law is raising eyebrows among Minnesota drivers.
“I think it’s a bunch of baloney,” declares Doug Rosnau, from Hibbing.
“It definitely sounds strange,” adds Alison Basilakis, from Edina. “Doesn’t sound legal right off the bat.”
As of July 1, out-of-state licenses from Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont, are no longer valid in Florida — if the driver is in the U.S. illegally.
By October, Minnesota could join that list.
“What the Florida law says, is that there has to be proof of lawful residence in the United States,” explains David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University. “If they stop somebody from out of state and they are not lawful in the U.S., they will issue perhaps a citation for driving without a license.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says the new law is designed to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
Right now, Minnesota only issues licenses to drivers who are lawful residents in the U.S.
But as of Oct. 1, a state law will allow licenses to be issued to anyone who qualifies, including those who lack proper documentation.
That date comes as many Minnesotans — ‘snowbirds’ — head down to Florida for the winter.
“Given what our new law is, and given the Florida laws, and given the migration patterns between the two states, it could well have an impact on Minnesotans,” Schultz says.
The idea is not popular with Rosnau and his wife Patty — who worry about being pulled over, simply because their car has Minnesota license plates.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s like we’re being punished,” he says. “Why should we take our vehicle down, we get pulled over, why should we have to pay a fine for something? We should be able to go anywhere in the U.S. with a driver’s license.”
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, there’s no way for law enforcement to identify a driver’s immigration status from a license issued here.
DPS says Driver Vehicle Services will not share citizenship or immigration status with agencies that enforce immigration law — unless ordered by a court.
Schultz says he thinks the Florida law will almost certainly face legal challenges.
“A state must honor and respect laws from other states,” he notes. “I get married in Minnesota, I travel down to Florida, does Florida have to recognize my marriage? Yes, it does. I don’t have to get remarried down there.”
Schultz says challengers to the law could argue it’s unconstitutional, under a section called the ‘full faith and credit clause.’
He adds Florida could be seen as exceeding its powers since immigration matters generally fall under the purview of the federal government.
“Somebody from another state goes down there, is going to get stopped and they’re going to argue selective enforcement, equal protection clause, or the full faith and credit issue,” Schultz says.
He explains if you are concerned about driving to Florida, you might consider bringing a second form of identification.
Basilakis, who has traveled there occasionally, says the idea of one state invalidating licenses from another state sounds a little off — even if Minnesota isn’t on the list just yet.
“I could have driven to let’s say, Florida, and had my license invalidated, and not known about it. So, much greater awareness would be helpful,” she declares. “Doesn’t sound like a very good idea. Doesn’t sound very beneficial.”