Driving Under Suspension
“The right of a citizen to operate a motor vehicle upon the highways of this state is not a natural or unrestricted right, but a privilege which is subject to reasonable regulation under the police power of the state in the interest of public safety and welfare.” State v. Starnes, 21 Ohio St.2d 38, 45, 254 N.E.2d 675 (1970).
While you have no right to drive without a valid license, this Court recognizes that not being able to drive results in general inconveniences, loss of employment, the inability to gain employment, and family hardships. Driving without a valid license also places a burden on law enforcement, municipal courts, and the general public who drive with valid licenses and proper insurance. For these reasons, this Court has a Driving Under Suspension Docket to give you an opportunity to get valid.
In Ohio, there are many reasons why your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked, including violating traffic laws, not paying court costs, or driving under the influence. To get valid, there are a variety of things you may be required to do, including going to other courts to resolve warrants or blocks from unpaid fines and costs, paying reinstatement fees, taking driver’s education courses, and carrying special insurance. The first step is to figure out what you need to do to get valid. To do so, you can call the Ohio BMV, have someone take you to a BMV office, or get that information online at the BMV website. To get the information online, you can go to bmv.ohio.gov, click on online services, then click Reinstatement Fees, and enter your information.
Once accepted into the program, you will be given a new date to return to court. You must return to court on that day. If you fail to appear, a warrant may issue for your arrest, and you will only further complicate an already complicated situation.
Ideally, when you return to court, you will have resolved all the issues preventing you from getting a valid license and obtaining a valid license and insurance. If that has not happened by the time of your next court date, you will need to speak to the City Prosecutor and the Court to see if you can get more time. If you are valid and have proof of insurance, the Prosecutor will move to dismiss and/or amend the charges against you, and the Court will allow you to plea to something that will not further hinder your ability to drive. Depending on your situation, you will likely be responsible for fines and costs at that time, so you should be prepared to address those with the Court on that day.
A few important final points. First, if you are not valid, you cannot drive. The last thing you need is to make this more complicated by getting another ticket while you are in this Court’s program. That stated, if you get valid and have insurance, you can drive; you do not need to wait to come back to court to start driving. Even if you are valid, you still must come back on your hearing date to resolve the case. Again, whatever your situation, it is essential that you return to court for your next hearing.
If you have questions, or you have a more complicated situation, such as facing an extended suspension in which you will need to obtain driving privileges, you may want to consider having a lawyer help you. If you are indigent, you may be entitled to have an attorney appointed to represent you. Otherwise, you could contact the local bar associations to find an attorney to assist you.