Attorney Carlos Candal Receives Special Recognition Award from LPRAC.

Hartford, CT – The Connecticut General Assembly’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) has honored Attorney Carlos Candal with a Special Recognition Award, honoring the leading advocate for Connecticut’s new Drive Only license program, an initiative which will permit undocumented immigrants living in Connecticut with an opportunity to obtain a driver’s license.

The new state policy, which has been described by lawmakers as one of the most significant public safety initiatives ever adopted in the state, was advocated by numerous individuals and organizations, but none were more instrumental than Candal, a former LPRAC member and a Spanish-speaking lawyer practicing Immigration and Personal Injury law, with offices in New Haven.

The Drive Only license program, which begins on January 2, 2015 and is administered by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, could affect tens of thousands of drivers who cannot establish their legal presence in the U.S. or may not have a Social Security number. The purpose is to improve public safety and to try to ensure that all drivers are tested, know how to drive and understand the rules and laws for driving. It will teach the rules of the road to eligible individuals, including many who may have already been behind the wheel for years.

The Special Recognition Award was highlighted by presentation of a commemorative plaque at LPRAC’s December 17, 2014 meeting in Hartford, and marked the first time that an individual Commission member was honored in such a manner, reflecting the significance of Candal’s contribution to the new law. Candal overcame initial reluctance by Commission colleagues regarding the likelihood of the program’s approval by the legislature, and continued to advocate tirelessly for the benefits – most importantly public safety – that would result.

“Carlos Candal played a pivotal role convincing our board about the economic and public safety benefits of the “drive only” program for immigrants,” said Richard A. Cruz, LPRAC Chairman. “His research at LPRAC started several years ago and evolved at a time when many experts in the field didn’t believe lawmakers in Connecticut had the political will to explore this policy.”

At Candal’s tenacious urging, LPRAC conducted a fact-finding hearing and developed research into the benefits of such a program, and ultimately agreed to support the initiative and advocate for its approval by the state legislature. The multi-year effort culminated with passage of the law in 2013 with a start date of 2015, to permit sufficient time for the DMV to adequately prepare material for applicants for the Drive Only license. “As a result of this legislation, the state will reap millions of dollars in annual revenue, our roads will be safer, and our court system will not be clogged by tens of thousands of minor motor vehicle infractions, thus allowing government resources to be utilized in other ways that will benefit all Connecticut residents,” said LPRAC Executive Director Werner Oyanadel.

LPRAC conducted a year-long study in 2011 to examine the potential economic and public safety benefits to the state and found (1) there was a potential annual revenue benefit of nearly $3 million in license and registration fees; (2) that granting driver’s licenses to this population would reduce the number of hit-and-runs and increase the number of insured motorists on the road and therefore improve public safety for people accessing our state and local road infrastructure; and (3) that Connecticut had the authority under state regulations to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants.

“It is with deep gratitude that I accept LPRAC’s recognition of my efforts as Chair of the Priorities and Legislation Committee in helping to pass legislation that as of January 2015 will allow qualifying undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license,” said Carlos Candal in receiving the LPRAC Special Recognition Award. “I am proud to say that through our efforts at LPRAC, along with those of passionate church leaders such as Father James Manship of St. Rose de Lima Church, agencies such as Connect, and courageous legislators such as State Representative Juan Candelaria, we played an instrumental role in this movement.”

By the end of 2012, after the issue had been thoroughly researched and deliberated by LPRAC, the Commission made the proposal part of its legislative agenda for 2013 and stated, “the Commission strongly believes that it would benefit all state residents if immigrants were able to obtain driver’s licenses. This would ensure that immigrants are tested on the laws of the road, have their vision checked, pay for licenses and car registration and most importantly purchase car insurance.”

As the law is poised to take effect, DMV officials are expecting thousands of immigrants to begin taking the steps needed to obtain a new state-issued driver’s license or learning permit. Public Act No. 13-89 requires the motor vehicles (DMV) commissioner to issue driver’s licenses “for driving purposes only” to individuals who cannot provide DMV with proof of legal U. S. residence or a Social Security Number (SSN). The license only allows the holder to drive; it cannot be used for federal identification purposes (e.g., boarding a plane) or as proof of identity to vote.

The act specifies the types of proof of identity and residence needed to obtain this license and the restrictions on its use. It prohibits the commissioner from issuing such a license to a person convicted of a felony in Connecticut. A Drive Only license is not valid for state or federal identification purposes, and cannot be used to vote.

Candal served as a member of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) from 2009 to 2012 and was chair of LPRAC’s Priorities and Legislation Committee. He attended law school at Quinnipiac University School of Law and received his Juris Doctor in 1994. Attorney Candal is admitted to practice law both in the State of Connecticut and the Federal District Court for the State of Connecticut.

In January 1995, Attorney Candal became an Assistant Public Defender for the Hartford Public Defender’s Office where, over the course of approximately five years, he represented thousands individuals on all aspects of criminal matters, ranging from minor motor vehicle infractions to homicide, from arraignment through trial. In November, 1999 he founded the Law Offices of Carlos Candal, LLC in New Haven, specializing in Immigration Law, Criminal Law and Appeals in State and Federal Court, as well as Personal Injury Matters.

He is an active member of AILA, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which is a national association of over 10,000 Immigration Lawyers who meet several times a year through local and national chapters.

The Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) is a nonpartisan policy agency within the legislative branch of government created in 1994 by an act of the Connecticut Legislature. LPRAC consists of 21 appointed community leaders that are mandated to advise the Connecticut General Assembly and the Governor on policies that foster progress in the Latino community in Connecticut.

For More Information please contact Werner Oyanadel at 860-372-1022