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Legal Aid releases new report on debt-related driver’s license suspensions

Posted September 27, 2022
5:00 pm

More than half of U.S. states – Ohio included – suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees. In Ohio, approximately 60% of all driver’s license suspensions are not based on dangerous driving, but rather are the result of a person’s failure to pay fines and fees.

These debt-related suspensions create a “road to nowhere,” often trapping drivers with limited resources in a vicious cycle where they are unable to drive to work in order to earn money to pay off the debt.

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland sought to investigate this cycle faced by thousands of Ohio drivers with debt-related suspensions. As part of this research, Legal Aid collected five years of data (2016-2020) from Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles on the numbers and locations of debt-related suspensions, along with the costs assessed, paid, and owed for these suspensions. The results of this research are now available in the new report, Road to Nowhere: Debt-Related Driver’s License Suspensions in Ohio.

Expert analysis of these data sets, combined with census data, resulted in five key findings, including:

  • Ohio drivers face over 3 million debt-related suspensions annually.
  • Debt-related suspensions substantially burden Ohio communities with an average outstanding total debt each year of over $920 million.
  • Debt-related suspensions occur across Ohio but at a higher rate in urban areas.

While some states have responded to this problem by changing the laws related to suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees, Ohio remains one of the states using driver’s license suspensions to severely penalize people for failure to pay fines and fees. In doing so, Ohio creates an enormous debt burden that disparately impacts communities with high poverty rates.

To review the full report, visit:

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and other groups continue working to address debt-related driver’s license suspensions. If you need legal help with a suspension that is interfering with your ability to work, call Legal Aid at 888-817-3777.

Founded in 1905, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is the fifth oldest legal aid organization in the United States. Serving residents of Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Lorain counties, Legal Aid staff and volunteers secure justice and resolve fundamental problems for those who have low incomes and are vulnerable by providing high-quality legal services and working for systemic solutions.

Visit for more information and the most recent updates on Legal Aid’s work to extend justice.

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