If you’ve ever had your driver’s license suspended, you understand how difficult suspension makes your entire life. You may need to drive to get to work to pay your bills, to get your kids to school, or to take care of elderly parents. If you’re not on a bus line, a task as simple as getting groceries can suddenly become an errand that requires massive planning. And if you don’t know someone willing to give you a ride—well, you’re either out of luck or out of money. Taking an Uber to the grocery store can really rack up the costs.
(Un)equal Treatment under the Law
Before October 16, 2009, driving under any kind of suspension was classified as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, a maximum $1000 fine and six points assessed against the permanent driving record. The unfortunate reality was that these consequences were applied equally regardless of the reason for license suspension. A person caught driving whose suspension was the result of a failure to pay a fine on a minor traffic ticket was treated the same as the individual caught driving after having their license suspended for vehicular homicide or multiple DUI offenses.
Current Law: Making the Punishment Fit the Crime
Fortunately, the Ohio Legislature revised certain sections of the Ohio Revised Code to reduce the penalties available for driving in the State of Ohio without a valid license in particular situations. A new category of offense was created for individuals who are charged with driving under suspension where the suspension is for failure to pay child support, appear in court, or pay court fines. Under ORC 4510.11 and 4510.16, first-time offenders in this situation are now charged with an unclassified misdemeanor (meaning it is not a misdemeanor 1, 2, 3 or 4) and are not punished with time in jail. On a first offense, the fine can still be up to $1000, and the court could order up to 500 hours of community service.
Allowing an unlicensed driver to drive, a former first-degree misdemeanor under ORC 4507.02, has also been designated as an unclassified misdemeanor with the same penalties listed above. Under ORC 4510.12, driving without a license where the person has never had a license is also an unclassified misdemeanor.
Other Minor Misdemeanors
Finally, a whole series of offenses, such as a first-offense driver with an expired license, have been re-classified as minor misdemeanors punishable by a maximum fine of $150. Additionally, 28 other traffic offenses (generally equipment violations), fall into this new category regardless of prior similar offenses.
Contact Us for Help with Your Right to Drive or Suspension thereof
The bottom line is that a driver’s license is vital to all of us. The law in this area changes rapidly, and competent counsel is a must if dealing with these types of issues in court. Dungan & LeFevre attorneys Jack Hemm, Steven Justice, and Michael Rieman all have years of experience in this area and can help secure the best possible outcome if you find yourself charged with an offense involving your right to drive.
If you have been charged with a crime anywhere in the Miami Valley, contact us for a consultation.