Perry County Court Helps Hundreds in First Rural License Reinstatement Program
By Csaba Sukosd | May 6, 2019
After successful driver's license reinstatement programs that impacted thousands of people in some of Ohio's largest cities, hundreds more reaped the benefits with the first rural event in the state.
Perry County Municipal Court - in coordination with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), and other agencies - served more than 200 of its residents dealing with license suspensions that for some date back several years.
"This is one of those options where they're not used to seeing the judiciary in that kind of a capacity," said Perry County Municipal Court Judge Dean Wilson. "They're more used to seeing the hammer drop on them as opposed to trying to give them a helping hand to get themselves corrected in a situation."
Similar programs as part of the BMV's Amnesty Initiative have already taken place in Columbus, Akron, and Youngstown. Passed by the state legislature in 2018, it's a driver's license reinstatement fee and debt reduction waiver for offenders whose licenses have been suspended.
While the demand for this effort is needed statewide, it's even more essential in smaller communities that lack public transportation, taxis, and car-sharing services - such as Uber and Lyft. According to Judge Wilson, 75 percent of the Perry County's employed residents work outside of the county.
"It's been very difficult because I can't go get a different job. I have to keep a job that's within walking distance from my house," said Logan Rodgers, who's been without a license since 2016. "I can't go out and buy groceries. I can't go to any doctor's appointments, or anything like that."
Rodgers' suspension stems from being caught multiple times for driving without insurance. For others, it could be the result of driving under the influence, having too many recorded penalty points, not paying traffic tickets, or failing to pay child support.
Despite paying all of his subsequent fines and fees, there were unclear legal obstacles that prevented Rodgers from getting his license back. With the assistance of volunteer attorneys and court staff on hand, his issues were among the many immediately resolved on site.
"We have both a moral and a legal obligation to serve the public the best that we can," said Judge Wilson. "I think that's part of the judiciary's service, and part of their program that they need to do to help serve the public the way that we can."
Having taken care of everything he needed to at the courthouse, Rodgers left the building with his license in hand.
"The next thing I do is going to apply for a better job, and then I'll be able to get there every day," Rodgers said.