A program that waived or reduced fees for Ohioans with suspended drivers’ licenses saved $63 million in built-up fees during a six-month period, according to a new report.
The Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC) released the findings of a pilot project that waived eligible driver’s license reinstatement fees for low-income individuals.
The report indicated the program not only saved individuals $63 million, but also collected $3.6 million for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) that wouldn’t have been collected otherwise.
The program, called the Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative, was a partnership between local courts, the BMV, Ohio Job and Family Services, and volunteer attorneys. It served 76,669 Ohioans, who participated in local clinics around the state where those with suspended licenses received tailored plans to get back on the road legally.
Columbus resident Chris Damron, 36, was able to reinstate his driver’s license as a result of the program.
“I owed about $1,700. Taking care of that was the final piece to my puzzle,” he said. “Getting my license back changed my life. It feels so good to be finally on the right side of the law again.”
While there are any number of legal issues that could prevent someone from getting back their license – from judgments on accidents to child support – a lot of times it’s a matter of not having the money to pay escalating court costs and fees.
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Jodi Thomas participated in a local clinic.
“Most of these people have accrued so many fees, putting them in a hole with no way out,” Judge Thomas said. “The Amnesty Initiative not only helped waive fees for indigency, but it also brought together agencies and resources that can restore their license.”
Judge Thomas expressed her support of House Bill 285, which would make the program permanent. The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation and the Ohio State Bar Association also have offered public support for the bill.