Half-a-Million Low-Income Ohioans With Suspended Licences Could Be Eligible for Relief With New Program

For many low-income Ohioans who have lost their drivers licenses for minor or unintentional offenses, there is no greater frustration than paying your debt to society, only to be denied your ability to drive legally because you can’t afford a government fee.

Thankfully, relief is in sight for thousands of these individuals.

House Bill 336 (HB 336), passed late last year, officially went into effect January 31. The bill established the Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative, a six-month program intended to reduce or waive reinstatement fees in certain conditions. This program could remove a tremendous burden for more than 400,000 Ohioans.

To even be considered for the program, the charge that led to the loss of your license cannot involve “alcohol, a drug of abuse, combination thereof, or a deadly weapon.” In addition, the individual must have completed any and all court requirements related to the offense beyond the fee. This could be anything required by the court from a mandatory driver’s improvement program to community service. Lastly, it must be at least 18 months since the end of any court-ordered suspension. This program, however, will only wave all fees in specifics instances.

If an individual completed all of the above requirements and can prove that they are “indigent,” in a state of extreme poverty that can be proved with documentation, then they qualify to have all fees waived. Anything short of this and the individual will still be required to pay a portion of their fee, but it will be at a greatly diminished rate.

A fee like this that disproportionately affects low-income families is derisively referred to by many as “driving while poor.” Many local townships and municipalities heavily rely on traffic fines as a source of funding. The result is hidden fees stacked on top of hidden fees that aggressively punish anyone who lacks the resources to make immediate payments.

For example, if one receives a ticket for a minor traffic infraction and cannot afford to pay the fine or attend the court date without missing work, their fine increases. Even if they are making payments, the fine can grow at a greater rate than they can pay. Should the situation become dire enough, a warrant can be issued that often becomes a burden for local law enforcement with no discernible benefit. Many are hopeful that programs like this can lead to greater prosperity for Ohioans.

The program only applies to driver’s licenses, not commercial licenses. The window to apply closes July 31.

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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star.

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Photo “Dave Greenspan (Right) and John Barnes (Left)” by Dave Greenspan. Background Photo “Ohio Highway” by Dailynetworks. CC BY-SA 3.0.








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