ORLANDO, Fla. - Thousands of undocumented immigrants in Florida are able to get cars on the road legally because of a little-known law.
The law allows Florida drivers to register a car even without a driver's license.
Local deputies said they are stopping more of these drivers for violations and the law needs to change to keep Floridians safe.
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Courtney Belser, her husband and her 1-year-old baby girl were driving on a Polk County road in February when they were hit.
Belser was eight months pregnant, but the impact caused her to lose her unborn child.
“It's just a hard feeling to understand or to deal with,” Belser said. “I have never felt this before. I just feel so empty, you know."
The Polk County Sheriff's Office said the driver, 48-year-old Bionel Cervin-Gomez, took off. The Sheriff's Office released video of him buying beer at a convenience store just hours before.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Cervin-Gomez is undocumented and was deported to Mexico in 2000.
They say he had no driver's license, but the truck he was driving was legally registered in his name.
Deputies said they couldn't charge him for the death of the unborn baby because they couldn't prove he was drinking and his traffic infraction wasn't a crime.
It's unclear if he is still in the United States.
Three years earlier, 43-year-old Brett Adams was hit and killed on Orange Blossom Trail.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Valentin Sis Sis was under the influence.
“As he was coming toward the light, he sped up,” said witness Lisa Paneiro. “I guess because he was asleep at the wheel, and he hit the cars.”
Troopers said he was a Guatemalan with no driver's license but the vehicle he was driving was registered to him.
He is serving 13 years in the Department of Corrections.
More than 20 states, including Florida, don't require a driver's license to register a car, and 13 states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, but Florida is not one.
This year, state Rep. Anna Eskamani co-sponsored a bill trying to change the law, saying it would make the roads safer because undocumented people would have to take a driving test.
Some studies also show a decrease in hit-and-run crashes when drivers are licensed.
“The reality is that these are Floridians that are in our in our neighborhoods, that are living everyday lives and they are traveling the roads without a license, which is dangerous for public safety,” Eskamani said.
But the bill didn't even get one hearing, and it’s unclear just how many people have no driver's license but have registered a car in Florida.
A spokesperson from the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles said they are working on our request telling us that finding that information would take time because, Alexis Bakofsky wrote, “Motor vehicle information and driver license information is stored in two separate systems within the department and there are nuances to cross-reference the data.” The department is working on a cost before that information can be provided.
Immigration advocates said any changes in that practice, will do little to deter undocumented workers from driving, saying they need jobs and they need money and one more law won't change that.
We had so many questions already about insurance.
Law enforcement officials said that drivers must get insurance to register a vehicle, but often, the insurance is canceled and there is no danger of having that registration suspended. That's a real concern for law enforcement and drivers.
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