BMC Athens

One of the local Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices in The Market on State in Athens.

A new six-month driver’s license reinstatement fee amnesty program kicked off last week that could help thousands of Ohioans, and dozens if not hundreds of Athens County residents, get back on the road after having their licenses suspended.

The program essentially means that people who may have hundreds of dollars in fees relating to the suspension of their driver’s license (as long as that suspension wasn’t the result of a drug, alcohol or deadly weapon-related incident) can apply for relief from those fees.

According to a release from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the program kicked off last Wednesday.

The release explains that in order to be eligible for these reinstatement fee reductions/waivers:

• Applicants must have completed all court-ordered sanctions related to the eligible offense other than the payment of reinstatement fees.

• At least 18 months must have passed since the end of the period of the driver’s license suspension ordered by the court. Those able to provide proof of indigence “will qualify for a complete amnesty of reinstatement fees. “

• Applicants must complete BMV form 2829. People can obtain this form at the BMV Deputy Registrar at the Market on State on East State Street in Athens, or by going online at www.bmv.ohio.gov, or it can be mailed by calling 614-752-7500.

In the above reference, “indigent" means a person who “is a participant in the supplemental nutrition assistance program administered by the Department of Job and Family Services.”

This program is important because, as The Athens NEWS previously reported, in 2017 roughly 4,000-plus people in Athens County alone had a suspended license, and as such, had a hard time getting to work, especially if they were already struggling with poverty and/or living in rural parts of the county.

This further compounds the struggles these people face, especially if they’re already forced to meet work requirements relating to welfare programs such as SNAP (food stamps) but can’t afford to keep a working car (with insurance) on the road.

The largest single cause of driver’s license suspensions in 2017 in Ohio was “non-compliance,” affecting about 1.3 million people. That’s an offense entirely resulting from somebody driving without a minimal level of car insurance.

Fees for non-compliance offenses are far higher than most other license-suspension fees: $150 on the first offense, $350 on the second offense (within five years), and $650 on the third offense (within five years). The reinstatement fee for a 12-point suspension of a license is only $40, by comparison.

The amnesty program is the result of House Bill 336, a bill that was co-sponsored by state Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville.

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