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How to Handle a Suspended Driver’s License in Ohio

By Kristen Simpson and Nat Ziegler

Ohio suspends driver’s licenses for many reasons, including unpaid debt. Ohioans with a debt-related driver’s license suspension can’t drive to work, so they can’t earn money to pay to fix the problem. Without their licenses, Ohioans face difficulty accessing school, groceries, family, healthcare, and recreation. Why does this happen, and what can someone in this predicament do?

Wait, why would my license be suspended?
Licenses are suspended for failure to pay fines, fees, and other costs associated with operating a vehicle. These include failure to pay a security deposit after an accident and failure to provide proof of insurance. You might also have outstanding traffic violations that trigger a suspension. Failure to pay child support and court debt can also cause suspension. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) and the courts can suspend your license for failure to pay fines, fees, and costs. At Legal Aid, we refer to these as “debt-related suspensions.”

So, it’s suspended, what’s the next step?
The first step is to find out why your license is suspended. You can do this by obtaining an unofficial copy of your driving record by visiting the BMV’s website at or by calling 844.644.6268 to get more information.

The next step depends on what is causing the suspension. For example, if there is money owed, you may have to make the full payment, request a payment plan, or request community service through the court to restore your license. Your driving record will usually provide you with contact information like the name of the court and a case number, an agency (like child support), or third parties (like an insurance company) you may have to contact to resolve the debt.

Depending on the type of suspension, you may be able to request limited driving privileges through the court. If you owe reinstatement fees to the BMV, you may be able to apply for the amnesty program or request a payment plan with the BMV. If you agree to a payment plan to restore your license, you must continue to make your payments on time and keep valid insurance or you may risk your license becoming suspended again.

In some cases, Legal Aid may be able to assist with resolving debt-related driver’s license suspensions. Legal Aid cannot help with traffic, OVI, or other criminal matters.

Contact The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland at 888.817.3777 or apply for help online.

This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 39, Issue 1, in May 2023. See full issue at this link: “The Alert”- Volume 39, Issue 1 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland

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