“The one thing that unites all human beings is that deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.”
— Dave Barry
“10,000 of the nation’s most elite Highway Patrolmen are out there waiting for us after we start, but let’s stay positive. Think of the fact that there’s not one state in the 50 that has the death penalty for speeding… although I’m not so sure about Ohio.”
— Brock Yates, “Cannonball Run” (1981)
You may not know it, but the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is watching. Not in a creepy, big brother sort of way, but still, they’re watching. Like J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, they have a file with your name on it, and they’re waiting to hear about you from people like me, actually.
Well, now, I suppose that does make it sound like a sinister, big brother kind of watching. Some clarification is probably in order. The BMV doesn’t really have a file on you in the manila folder, police blotter kind of way. And they’re not really waiting to hear about you with baited breath so much as they’re ready to hear about you if need be.
That’s because the law requires that any time a court finds you guilty of a traffic offense (or adjudicates a juvenile as being a juvenile traffic offender), the court must transmit a record of the case to the BMV either on paper or electronically. In fact, it’s a crime to not report the traffic conviction. The BMV is therefore the repository of all things related to traffic offenses.
In order to prevent people who are truly a menace behind the wheel from remaining on the roadway, the law assigns points to each traffic offense on a sliding scale from two to six. Only “moving violations” get points assigned to them. Although the law does not strictly define what is and is not a “moving violation,” appeals courts have defined them (not surprisingly) as an offense that relates to the operation of a moving motor vehicle. In other words, if you have a burned out tail light, that’s not going to earn you any points, but if you’re speeding, then points are coming your way.
Speeding is an excellent example of how the points system works, actually, since a speeding offense can be zero, two or four points depending on the circumstances. Most speeding offenses are two-point violations. If, however, you are traveling more than 30 miles per hour in excess of the posted speed limit, then speeding is a four-point violation. On the other hand, if you are less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in a 55, 60, 65 or 70 mile per hour zone or less than five miles per hour over the speed limit in any lower speed zone, then there are no points associated with speeding.
The most serious traffic offenses are six-point violations. These include vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, fleeing a police officer, leaving the scene of an accident (hit-skip), street racing, driving under suspension, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In addition to the excessive speeding citations mentioned above, four points are also assessed for reckless operation of a motor vehicle or for a driving under the influence section that applies only to persons under 21.
If a person accumulates six points in any two-year period, the BMV sends them a letter to warn them that have reached that point total. In 2012, there were 122,570 six-point warning letters sent. If a person reaches 12 points accumulated in any two-year period, then the BMV automatically suspends their license for six months based solely on the point total. If that same person is then caught driving during those six months, then they would receive another six points for driving under suspension. The state issues 15,000-30,000 12-point suspensions every year.
Juvenile cases carry mandatory penalties that occur regardless of the number of points assessed. If a juvenile has two moving violations before turning 18, the law requires the court to impose a 90-day suspension. If a juvenile receives a third moving violation before turning 18, the law requires the court to impose a one-year suspension.
You can view of copy of your record at the BMV by going to their website at www.bmv.ohio.gov and clicking on the tab for “online services.”
David Hejmanowski is judge of the Probate/Juvenile Division of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.