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State program could help suspended drivers regain licenses

Posted at 7:52 PM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-28 19:52:12-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans who had their driver’s license suspended for certain violations may be able to have their license reinstatement fee waived or reduced under a new program going into effect this week.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles says the Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative goes into effect Thursday. It allows drivers six months to apply for a fee reduction or a waiver. Drivers can apply from Thursday through July 31, 2019.

The bureau will determine eligibility based on qualifying offenses.

Offenders must have completed all court-ordered sanctions other than paying the reinstatement fees and at least 18 months must have passed since any court-ordered suspension ended. The offense cannot have involved drugs, alcohol or a deadly weapon.

Bureau spokeswoman Lindsey Bohrer says about 410,000 Ohioans are eligible for the program.

People who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can qualify for a complete waiver of reinstatement fees. Others may qualify for a reduction of at least 50 percent.

Jack Frech, former director of Athens County Job & Family Services, told The Columbus Dispatch that drivers can have their licenses suspended for various reasons, including stealing gasoline or not paying child support.

More than 1.25 million license suspensions in 2016 were for failing to provide proof of vehicle insurance, according to the bureau.

A former registrar for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles says drivers who have their licenses suspended and can’t afford to pay the reinstatement fees may keep driving because they need to work, but they get another suspension if they are caught driving with a suspended license.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” Mike Rankin said.

Most suspensions include reinstatement fees, which range from $40 to $650.

An attorney with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, a civil legal aid agency for low-income individuals, believes the amnesty program could benefit the state and those with license suspensions.

“At a certain point, people are uncollectable when they have so many fees,” attorney Ann Roche said. “This is giving people a fresh start.”

The bureau says those wanting to participate in the program can get an application form at their local deputy registrar’s office, call the bureau or find it online .