Failing to pay any criminal or traffic fine in Ohio will likely cost you your driver’s license. Unpaid court costs and restitution can also prove problematic.
In all instances when a court accuses you of not paying fines or fees, you have the right to a hearing and the right to be represented by a Columbus, OH, criminal defense attorney. Exercising these rights is important because not responding to a notice of delinquent fines can make you subject to arrest and imprisonment for failing to appear.
Notice and Hearing
You will generally have 30-90 days following a conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI) to pay criminal fines and court fees in full or request a payment plan. If you miss that deadline or fail to make a payment, the court must notify you and explain what can happen next.
Unsettled criminal fines go to a hearing at which the person who owes the fines must appear. Court fee debts are treated as civil obligations, and the person who owes them does not have to appear. Ohio does not allow judges to send people to jail for not paying court fees, but such debts can go into collection and result in wage garnishments.
The primary, and generally automatic, penalty for failing to pay a DUI fine in Columbus, Ohio, is suspension of your personal driver’s license and commercial driver’s license. Individuals with outstanding court debts are also blocked from registering vehicles with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
A failure-to-pay suspension and registration block remain in effect until the fine is paid or another resolution deemed acceptable to the court is reached. Reinstating a license suspended for nonpayment requires receiving clearance from the court and paying a reactivation fee to the BMV.
The unpaid fine hearing is held to determine why the defendant has not fulfilled that part of his or her sentence. Acceptable defenses all come down to proving financial hardship. Individuals who are unemployed, disabled, ill, or otherwise insolvent cannot be sentenced to jail solely for failing to pay criminal fines. Acceptable alternatives to paying in full and all at once include
A judge who finds that a person convicted of DUI/OVI intentionally refused to pay fines can issue a jail sentence of up to six months. For each portion of a day spent in custody for failing to pay a fine, $50 is taken off the debt. No failure-to-pay sentence can exceed 180 days or the total value of the fine (e.g., a $500 failure-to-pay sentence cannot be longer than 10 days).
Inability to Pay
As mentioned above, a true inability to afford criminal fines and court costs is not itself a criminal offense. Judges must accept good faith efforts to make payments and permit negotiated payment deals. Judges must also review evidence of financial hardship, and they have the authority to waive or reduce noncriminal fees altogether.
The moral here is that you should let your Columbus DUI defense attorney and the court know as soon as possible if you will have trouble paying OVI fines and fees. Never ignore late notices or refuse to at least try to pay. Your legal representative and judges will work with you if you let them.
For help with any drunk or drugged driving case, contact The Maher Law Firm to request a no-cost consultation. You can reach us online or get us on the phone by calling (614) 205-2208.