A much-needed break
There has been an argument by some social justice advocates that if a crime is only punishable with a fine, then it is a crime only for those who are poor.
While that may be a bit of a stretch, it seems the idea stuck with enough Ohio lawmakers that a year ago the state made permanent an amnesty program that gives low-income Ohioans the chance to apply to have their reinstatement fees forgiven or reduced, after having their licenses suspended for mistakes such as not having their proof of insurance, traffic tickets or another, similar offense.
According to a report by The Columbus Dispatch, that program has so far forgiven more than $255 million in reinstatement fees for 380,000 drivers.
“When you look at the reduction numbers, the dollar numbers, it’s kind of staggering. We’ve really put a dent into this,” Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles Registrar Charlie Norman told the Dispatch. “I think it’s fair to say we put 100,000 people back on the road legally, that if it were not for amnesty, might not be there.”
It is encouraging to see the program working for hundreds of thousands of Ohio drivers who could use a break. For some who cannot afford to pay the fees, a vicious cycle can develop: Since they cannot pay, they cannot legally drive to and from a job. Then they have a choice to make — go without working and earning money, which means they will never be able to pay, or choose to drive illegally and risk yet another violation and accompanying fees. It might never end
Now that lawmakers know what a difference they can make, perhaps they will find other ways to make the system work for everyone.