A suspended driver’s license can be more than an inconvenience. Suspension of your Indiana driver’s license can impact your ability to care for your family or earn a living. Whether suspension is for the nonpayment of traffic citations or some other reason, you are probably already strapped for cash, so paying the fees charged for reinstating your license is just out of reach. An Indiana traffic attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you take advantage of the temporary Indiana traffic amnesty program to change that—before time runs out.
What Is the Indiana Traffic Amnesty Program?
In 2019, the Indiana General Assembly passed HEA 1141, which allows a short time for individuals with an Indiana license suspension to apply for amnesty or forgiveness of part of the cost associated with an Indiana driver’s license reinstatement. A recent report from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law indicates that license reinstatement fees prevent many with license suspensions from being able to achieve or maintain their ability to support themselves. The state legislature responded by passing a temporary traffic amnesty program.
The program allows qualified individuals with license suspensions to apply for a reduction in the amount to be paid for Indiana driver’s license reinstatement. Although the process is somewhat streamlined and sounds simple, assistance from an Indiana traffic amnesty attorney is highly advisable to take full advantage of the program, to avoid technical errors that could jeopardize eligibility to participate, and to file for relief under the short-lived program before the Indiana traffic amnesty deadline.
The Consequences of Indiana Driver’s License Suspension
Whether you live in the City of Indianapolis or a suburban area away from the city, driving is a convenience we rely on to get to work, take kids to school and activities, and run the errands necessary for taking care of ourselves and our families. An Indiana license suspension puts a halt to all of that, making it difficult if not impossible to earn an income, buy groceries, get to the bank, or run other errands necessary to keep our lives on track.
Your driver’s license may be suspended for a variety of reasons, only some of which are related to driving. The potential causes of license suspensions in Indiana include:
- Failing to pay fines imposed for traffic violations
- Failing to appear on a traffic summons
- Driving without automobile insurance required by law
- Failing your vision screening when renewing your driver’s license
Even beyond the inconvenience, driving after your license has been suspended is a criminal offense. If you drive while your license is suspended, you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by jail time and a fine up to $5,000. If driving while suspended results in injury or death, the offense can be elevated to a Level 5 or Level 6 felony. The sentence for a Level 5 felony can be between two and eight years in prison with a fine up to $10,000. For a Level 6 felony, the sentencing range is between six months and three years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Who Does the Indiana Traffic Amnesty Program Help?
Anyone applying for reinstatement of a suspended Indiana driver’s license must pay the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicle (BMV) fees ranging from $250 to $1,000 in addition to payment of the outstanding traffic fines or other amounts due that triggered the suspension. Many people struggle to afford the reinstatement fees alone, let alone the underlying traffic fines or other costs. The Indiana BMV amnesty program now allows qualifying individuals to seek a reduction in the reinstatement fees, including related court costs, administrative fees, late fees, and other fees, as well as any unpaid traffic fines.
The amnesty program is designed to help individuals who cannot afford reinstatement expenses accrued before January 1, 2019 for:
- Driver’s license reinstatement fees
- Court costs, administrative fees, late fees, or other costs associated with driver’s license reinstatement
- Unpaid accrued traffic fines
Additionally, applicants to the program cannot have any of the following:
- An existing child support arrearage or failure to make required child support payments in the last six months
- An outstanding arrest warrant
- Any delinquency in restitution ordered to be paid to a victim of a crime
Moreover, the program is available only to those who meet these qualifications and who file for relief before the Indiana traffic amnesty deadline of December 31, 2020.
How Does the Indiana Traffic Amnesty Program Help?
A qualified applicant for relief under the Indiana traffic amnesty program can receive a significant reduction in the fees associated with the reinstatement of his or her Indiana driver’s license. For qualified applicants, any unpaid traffic fines, whether or not reduced to judgment, will be cut in half. The court will also cut in half the reinstatement fee. Also, anyone filing for relief under the amnesty program does not have to pay the filing fee normally required for filing new civil action cases.
If you meet all of the requirements under the Indiana BMV traffic amnesty program, pay the reduced fees required, and there are no objections to the reinstatement of your license, the trial court must grant your petition or request for relief under the amnesty program.
The Process for Seeking Relief under the Indiana BMV Amnesty Program
Indiana drivers interested in seeking relief under the Indiana BMV amnesty program must file a petition in the circuit or superior court of each county in which the violation that resulted in their license suspensions occurred. The petition must include:
- Your full name and any aliases
- Your birthdate
- The case number of the underlying violations that resulted in your license suspension
- Your statement affirming that you are eligible for the amnesty program because:
- You have no child support arrearages and have not been late on any child support payments in the last six months
- You have no outstanding arrest warrants
- You have no unpaid restitution payments ordered to be made to a crime victim
- Your Social Security number
- Your Indiana driver’s license number
- The date of your traffic violation
- Anything else you think the court needs to know to evaluate your request for amnesty
When you file the petition, you must also serve a copy of the request on the prosecutor in that county. The prosecutor has 30 days to file a response or objection. If the prosecutor files no response or does not otherwise object, no hearing is required and the court must grant you relief in the form of reduced fees. If the prosecutor files an objection, then the court must set the matter for hearing.
The petition may sound simple, but service on the prosecutor, affirmation language, and finding and using the appropriate cause number for the petition can be confusing and complicated for non-lawyers. Moreover, most cases in Indiana are now filed electronically using an e-filing system.
An Indiana traffic amnesty attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP understands how to read the Indiana traffic amnesty law, draft a compliant petition for relief, file it using Indiana’s e-filing system, and serve the petition on the appropriate prosecutor’s office or offices in the relevant counties. And if the court sets the matter for hearing, we will be with you to argue your case to the court and work vigorously to persuade the court that any objections are misplaced.
Limitations of the Indiana BMV Amnesty Program
For many, the relief available under the Indiana BMV amnesty program can make the difference between getting to work and being unable to support self or family. But the program has very narrow application. Again, in addition to meeting the applicant qualifications listed above, relief is only available for:
- The reinstatement fee
- The related court costs, administrative fees, late fees, and other fees
- The filing fee for the petition
- Unpaid traffic violation fees accrued prior to January 1, 2019
Additionally, the program is only temporary, so your petition must be filed before the Indiana traffic amnesty deadline, which is at the end of 2020. Time is of the essence in these cases, and the details matter. Filing a timely, legally sound, accurate, and complete petition is vital to getting the relief you need.
Where to Find an Experienced Indiana Traffic Amnesty Attorney
Many people try to defend themselves against traffic citations, only to find that the process is more complicated than they had expected. Success often requires a thorough understanding of courtroom procedure, Indiana traffic laws, and evidentiary rules that most people just do not have. While online research may provide some answers, there is no guarantee the information is up-to-date or even accurate.
The attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP focus their practice in criminal defense, traffic violation defense, expungement, and related areas of law where your rights are at risk. Our team includes former prosecutors, so we understand how the other side thinks and works. Meanwhile, we work diligently to stay current on Indiana law and research so we can develop optimal defense strategies for your particular case. We have decades of collective experience as litigation attorneys to represent you in court and before administrative bodies.
If your Indiana driver’s license has been suspended and payment of the underlying traffic fines or the reinstatement fee is out of reach, call Keffer Hirschauer LLP to explore whether you qualify for a significant reduction in the costs associated with your Indiana driver’s license reinstatement. For a free consultation, call us at (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule an appointment. The Indiana traffic amnesty program is only available for a limited time, so act now.