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Cleveland Municipal Court Partners with the BMV to Help Clevelanders with License Reinstatement Fees: Hotline and Community Event a Huge Success!!

Apr 01, 2019
(Cleveland) -- After several months of strategic planning involving the coordination of various governmental and non-profit agencies, The Cleveland Municipal Court made a dramatic impact last month on the lives of many unlicensed drivers burdened by license reinstatement fees.
Contact:  Ed Ferenc, Public Information Officer                                  

Cleveland Municipal Court
216 664 6787 / 216 789 2597

(Cleveland) -- After several months of strategic planning involving the coordination of various governmental and non-profit agencies, The Cleveland Municipal Court made a dramatic impact last month on the lives of many unlicensed drivers burdened by license reinstatement fees.

The problem of unlicensed drivers has been an issue in the State of Ohio for years, so lawmakers lead by State Representative John Barnes Jr., finally agreed to do something about it in the last session. The lack of a driver’s license effectively deprives people of reliable, lawful transportation necessary to get to and from work, take children to school, keep medical appointments, or care for ill or disabled family members.

“This is an economic issue. Many unlicensed drivers have paid their fines or have done community service, but still owed the Bureau of Motor Vehicles thousands of dollars, so when the legislation passed, we needed to act,” said Judge Suzan Sweeney, who along with Judge Emanuella Groves, created three phases of planning.

Listen to Judge Groves speak about the BMV License Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Program on ideastream's Sound of Ideas.

Training and Promotion

On March 1 the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association sponsored a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) workshop, which attracted 70 people, 40 of them attorneys to prepare them on license suspension law. With recent casino profits allocated to each ward, Councilman Kevin Conwell stepped up and provided funding for thousands of flyers distributed in the community, along with the creation of the website which was promoted on various radio stations.

Phone Banking

Then on Friday, March 15, 16 telephone lines set up by the IT Department under the direction of Jerry Bright started ringing in the fourth floor Jury lounge. It was a special hotline set up from 9am to 6pm and when it was all over, a total of 2,345 calls were answered.

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“The response clearly exceeded our expectations and better yet, we were prepared to manage it,” said Judge Groves, noting that the longest wait time was 10 minutes and that occurred in the first hour

On-Site Help

Those who needed more attention on their cases were asked to attend a community engagement event at the Glenville Recreation Center on Saturday, March 23. For the 121 people who showed up, BMV Regional Representative Darlene Jones reported a total of $54,408.50 in reinstatement fees were eliminated and three attendees left the building totally valid.

“I would say this was a success,” said Jones.

Clerk of Court Earle B. Turner was also impressed with the entire operation.

“It’s been good to partner with Judges, court personnel and so many volunteers to give people a fresh start and chance to drive legally. At the Clerk’s office, we’re glad that the word is getting out about this unique opportunity through the BMV”, said Mr. Turner.

All this was made possible through a collaboration of many partners, agencies and community leaders. Along with Judge Groves the list includes Judges Michelle D. Earley, Jazmin Torres-Lugo, Ann Clare Oakar, Suzan Marie Sweeney and Michael L. Nelson Sr., Cleveland Ward 9 Councilman Kevin Conwell, Cleveland Clerk of Courts Earle B. Turner and former State Representative for the Ohio 12th Housing District John E. Barnes, Jr. Darlene Jones, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles; David Magee, Cuyahoga County Office of the Public Defender, Municipal Division Director; Marlon Primes, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association; District 7 County Council Representative Yvonne Conwell; Judge Michael J. Ryan, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division; Cleveland Municipal Court Chief Magistrate Gregory Clifford; Greater Cleveland Volunteers; Towards Employment and Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Spectrum TV 20, which broadcasts the program Cleveland Justice showcasing the court’s dockets, is currently airing a Public Service Announcement that Judge Groves recorded with Councilman Conwell.

The BMV Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative went into effect January 31, creating a six-month program for driver license reinstatement fee reduction and waiver for offenders whose driver licenses have been suspended for specific violations.

The program is designed for drivers with licenses suspended for specific non-alcohol, drug or weapons-related offenses. In order to be eligible for reinstatement fee reduction, applicants must have completed all court-ordered sanctions and at least 18 months must have passed since the suspension ended. In order to get all reinstatement fees dropped, there must be proof of indigence. The initiative only applies to a driver license or permit suspension and it does not apply to a commercial driver license or commercial permit suspension.

It’s estimated over 400,000 Ohio drivers will qualify for the program with almost 40,000 of them in Cleveland.

The Court is planning events in the community from now to the end of July to inform the public about the program. The BMV Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Application can be obtained at or by going to the local Deputy Registrar.


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