Lake County IL introduces new pilot program to help people clear their suspended licenses

Lake County Celebrates Road to Reinstatement Pilot Program Milestone

Lake County Board members, along with other elected officials, and the public gathered this morning to celebrate a milestone in the County’s innovative Road to Reinstatement Driver’s License Pilot Program.

The program is the culmination of a concerted effort led by Vice-Chair Mary Ross-Cunningham on behalf of the Lake County Board to address at the local level an issue that is experienced by many low-income individuals nationwide: the loss of their driver’s license because of an inability to pay outstanding fees and fines.

Nationally, approximately 40 percent of individuals who lose their driver’s license do so for reasons unrelated to improper driving. Losing a license has consequences beyond not being able to drive. It can impede an individual’s ability to commute to a job and earn a living to support themselves and their families.

To combat this issue, the Lake County Board, with support of other partners, initiated the Road to Reinstatement Driver’s License Pilot Program in 2019. The program provides qualified individuals with a process to request a reduction in their outstanding fees and fines.

“We know that many individuals in our communities face a barrier to employment due to their inability to pay fees and fines that they have accumulated,” said Lake County Board Vice-Chair Mary Ross-Cunningham. “We are proud to be the first county in the state to implement a program that is necessary for our communities.”

Lake County introduced the pilot program in February, when individuals throughout Lake County participated in a driver’s education session, where they also received resources and information related to employment and training.

In March, participants completed applications and met with volunteer attorneys from the Lake County Bar Association throughout the summer to determine their eligibility.

“We recognize that it is fundamentally inconsistent with the ends of justice for citizens of this county to lose their driving privileges solely because they cannot afford to pay outstanding fines and court costs on minor traffic violations,” said Donald J. Morrison, one of the volunteer attorneys who worked with the program. “The Lake County Bar Association has been proud to offer the volunteer services of its members to support this vital driver’s license reinstatement program to help insure equal access to driver’s license privileges for all citizens of Lake County.”

The milestone celebrated today was the court call, where approximately 20 participants who successfully completed the application process were able to request a reduction in their outstanding fees and fines, which when paid, would allow them to renew or reinstate their license.

About 80 applications were initially received for the program. Individuals were not eligible if they had traffic offenses such as DUI citations or felony charges, were habitual offenders, had their license suspended because of a child support issue, or had citations issued outside of Lake County.

“Many households nationwide are impacted by the cycle of debt created by compounding fees and fines,” said Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart. “I am proud of the work of Vice-Chair Cunningham and the County Board, our staff, and our many dedicated partners who worked tirelessly to make the Road to Reinstatement Pilot program a reality.”

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