CLEVELAND — Letters from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles started arriving in drivers' mailboxes over the weekend, warning them that their plates and registration were subject to suspension and confiscation if they didn't pass an E-Check. Generated July 2, the letters warning drivers that they had 10 days to surrender their plates and registration weren't postmarked until July 7 and delivered around July 10.
The odd timing of the sternly-worded letters left recipients with only one full day (Monday, July 12) to either surrender their plates and registrations or pass an E-Check. According to a copy of the letter provided to News 5, a failure to do so would result in "an order to confiscate your license plate(s) and registration [being] sent to law enforcement."
The tone of the letters caught many recipients by surprise, especially those who remain current on their registrations.
"I decided to [register for] two years and you can see that in the tag in the back where it says 2022. If that's the case, why did they process my registration if they needed the E-Check so bad?" said Luis Vizcarrondo, a pastor at Refine Church in Old Brooklyn. "I am going to threaten you with law enforcement action of an emissions check. That is something. Whenever anybody sees the words law enforcement, they think, 'What did I do?!" You know?"
Left incredulous by the tone of the letter, Vizcarrondo immediately thought of his parishioners, some of whom aren't fluent in English or remain wary of sharp-tongued messages from the government. Escalating messaging from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles comes as the state's extension of expired plates, registrations and E-Check certifications, which were the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ended on July 1.
However, those extensions appear to have also put the state's schedule for the biennial requirement for E-Check certification completely out of whack. Some drivers that needed to update their registrations in even-numbered years are now having to get their E-Check certifications in an odd-numbered year.
News 5 reached out to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles but a spokesperson was unable to provide additional information before press time Tuesday.
Vizcarrondo brought up the common criticism of the E-Check program in that it places an undue burden on poor and low income families by requiring expensive emissions repairs that some families may not be able to afford. To impose such a requirement during the pandemic recession places an even bigger burden, he said.
"Everybody is having their struggles right now, whether it be low wages, unemployment," Vizcarrondo said. "Families are going through so many things right now. We have a law that obviously needs to go back and get revised. Threatening law enforcement action isn't going to get anybody anywhere. You're going to waste resources of law enforcement to confiscate license plates and registration? That makes no sense."
Although Vizcarrondo's first thoughts upon reading the letter were about the potential impact on his parishioners, a confiscation of his license plates and registration would put him under tremendous pressure too. As a bi-vocational minister, Vizcarrondo doesn't receive a salary from the church and, instead, he has to work a full time job outside the church. As a father of three children with a fourth on the way, losing his plates because of an E-Check on his 2017 minivan would present an incredible burden.
"Could you imagine if I couldn't take my disabled daughter to her appointments over a confiscation of license plates?" Vizcarrondo said. "My baby to come, when she is a newborn, she will have what's called a clubfoot. Could you imagine if couldn't take her to appointments?"
Drivers in only seven counties in Ohio are required to have an E-Check certification. All seven of those counties are in Northeast Ohio.