Kentwood driver program promotes safer roads

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Kentwood’s 62-B District Court launched a new program to help individuals with certain license-related charges get back behind the wheel.

On the Road, which launched in 2021, eliminates hurdles for those who have been charged by the city with driving unlicensed or with a suspended, revoked or denied license. Its intent is to help individuals avoid the repeated suspensions that can result from license-related convictions and keep them from appearing on a permanent, criminal record.

“Our goal is to create incentives for people in these situations to become licensed drivers, which will ultimately result in safer roads for our community,” said Judge Amanda Sterkenburg, 62-B District Court. “Often, we see defendants who are close to getting their license for the first time but are unable to overcome certain licensure hurdles or who are unaware their license is suspended because of an unpaid ticket. The additional charges put more distance between them and valid license privileges.”

State law was amended in 2021 under the presumption these offenses shouldn’t be punished with jail time. Infractions now are punished with fines and community service, which can be difficult for individuals who do not have a driver’s license or other forms of transportation. Failing to complete the requirements can result in additional penalties, including up to 92 days in jail, probation, fines of up to $500 plus court costs and a misdemeanor conviction on one’s permanent criminal record.

With On the Road, eligible individuals can avoid this difficult situation and sanctions upon successfully completing the program.

The court judge will determine if a person is eligible for the program during arraignment, but those whose driver’s license has been revoked due to drug or alcohol convictions, Friend of the Court or immigration status might be ineligible.

Those who qualify must agree to accept responsibility for a civil infraction and pay a fine during a review hearing scheduled up to four months later. Leading up to the hearing, the individual must fulfill obligations to become a re-licensed driver. This might include paying all tickets, removing all suspensions from their Secretary of State record, paying all fees, completing a defensive driving course and passing their road or written driving test.

More information about On the Road is here.

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