CLEVELAND — There are hundreds of thousands of Ohioans on the road right now with suspended licenses, and experts said many struggle to pay escalating reinstatement fines. A new program in Cleveland was designed in hopes to curb costs and get drivers back in the right lane of the law.
Cleveland Municipal Court has created a special hotline that will be open Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., where volunteers and staff in the criminal justice system will take calls and answer questions about the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Reinstatement Reduction Program.
The BMV Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative went into effect January 31, creating a six-month program for driver license reinstatement fee reduction and waiver for offenders whose driver licenses have been suspended for specific violations.
Experts claim over 400,000 Ohio drivers will qualify for the program and 40,000 of drivers are in Cleveland.
Judge Emanuella Groves said the word has not gotten out sufficiently to people who could benefit the most, so an ad campaign for the hotline started last weekend.
“We just felt this was the most effective and productive way to get the information out, and to provide people with an opportunity to really take advantage of a very limited chance to clear up their problems with the DMV," Groves said.
She said the problems for thousands are serious, with families needing to drive to work to earn a living, but barely able to pay for food for their families.
“It’s a choice between whether or not you pay your rent, you pay utilities - and it really is more so an economic problem," Groves said.
Groves said a state law has drivers caught in a loop of repeat violation, making it hard to crawl out of.
“People may be unsympathetic, but our goal is we want licensed drivers," she said. "We want drivers to be responsible. We want drivers who have found themselves in this web and they can’t get out, that this is the opportunity to get out.”
About three quarters of court dockets pertain to drivers with problems relating to licenses, and Groves said that doesn't mean drivers with DUI's or drug offenses.
The BMV program does not reduce reinstatement fees in cases where the underlying offense is alcohol, drug or weapons-related.
A complete waiver is only available for those who have SNAP cards, or those who can show proof that they are in the SNAP card application process.
People can apply online through July 31. Those who still have questions can call the hotline at (216) 664-6145.