‘Tis the Season: OVI Court Handles Holiday Hardships -By Csaba Sukosd | December 18, 2019 | Court News Ohio

For people dealing with substance use issues, the holidays can be the hardest time to stay sober. That’s a concern that’s potentially deadlier for people who’ve already been convicted of impaired driving.

Aware of the potential pitfalls that come at the end of each year, Athens Municipal Judge Todd Grace, and his staff who manage operating-a-vehicle-while-impaired (OVI) cases, adjust accordingly to participants who are more vulnerable to the temptations of a relapse.

“In court, I try to have something to connect with the defendants on what they’re facing, especially if we have concerns, and make sure that they are reminded about the resources available to them to help them through any difficulties they might be facing,” Judge Grace said.

Those means of support include increased accessibility to treatment and counseling, and connection to other social services. It’s part of a public service component that drew Judge Grace to the bench as juvenile magistrate in 2003, acting judge in 2009, and full-time judge since 2015.

Throughout all his years hearing cases, he’s often seen how family and financial stresses can weigh on someone and oftentimes the coping behavior is to use. In a 2019 report by the Ohio Development Service Agency, Athens County had the highest poverty rate at more than 30%.

“There are instability issues in their lives that many people are facing. It can be employment, it can be a relationship, it can be any number of issues that they’re addressing,” Judge Grace said.

Since 1981, December has been recognized as National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, which was recently renamed as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals describes this month as “one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on America’s roadways due to an increase in impaired driving.”

To get a clearer sense of how many people are potentially at risk, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 37,473 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017. Of the drivers killed, 45% who were tested for drugs, tested positive.

In the season of giving, there’s no greater reward for the court with its at-risk defendants than the gift of life. Whether it takes one hearing or several months, it’s a present that’s always worth the wait.

“We love the click,” Judge Grace said. “We certainly love it when somebody who’s been resistant to the program, or has not been able to fully integrate into the program, finally gets to the point where they’re ready.”

Governor DeWine Reminds Ohioans About New License to Fly

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)— Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) Registrar Charles Norman, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Ohio Security Director Donald Barker, and Columbus Regional Airport Authority President/CEO Joseph Nardone today reminded travelers that strengthened federal requirements surrounding air travel in the United States go into effect in less than one year.

Beginning on October 1, 2020, the federal government will no longer consider standard driver’s licenses as a sufficient form of identification for air travel. Going forward, TSA will require a federally compliant driver’s license/identification card or another acceptable form of identification (such as a U.S. passport or military ID) to fly within the United States.

Ohio began offering federally compliant licenses and identification cards on July 2, 2018. Since then, only 27% of Ohioans obtaining a new or renewed card have opted for the federally compliant version.

“We want to make sure Ohio travelers are aware of the upcoming change in the law and have ample time to get their federally compliant license or identification card if they need one,” said Governor DeWine.  “Our goal is to eliminate headaches and frustration at Ohio’s airports so that our citizens can quickly get where they need to go.”

The new federal requirements are part of the 2005 REAL ID Act which Congress passed following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The strengthened federal requirements standardize the process of issuing driver’s licenses and identification cards throughout the country to prevent identity theft and fraud. Federally compliant cards include a number of enhanced security features and are marked with a black star in the righthand corner.

Ohioans who choose to obtain a compliant new or renewed license or identification card will be required to provide documentation at a deputy registrar location proving their name and date of birth (such as a birth certificate or passport), Social Security number (such as a Social Security card or most recent W2), and two additional documents proving residential address (such as a utility bill or bank statement). Those who have changed their names must also provide a certified marriage certificate, divorce decree, U.S. passport, or court order with their legal name.

The Ohio BMV has a full list of documents that Ohioans can use to obtain a compliant driver’s license or ID at www.bmv.ohio.gov. The website also has an interactive checklist to help Ohioans create a customized, printable list of documents.

“The BMV looks forward to working with our partners across the state to provide Ohioans with the information and tools they need to make their REAL ID interaction go as smoothly as possible,” said Ohio BMV Registrar Charles Norman.  “We encourage customers to make an informed decision about their REAL-ID needs well in advance of October 1, 2020, to avoid the potential rush as we approach the federal deadline for compliance.” 

Ohioans do have the option to carry a standard, non-compliant driver’s license or identification card for purposes of driving, voting, etc. Standard cards do not require the additional documentation needed for federally compliant cards, but TSA will not accept them to board an airline flight. Those with standard cards can, however, board a flight with another type of acceptable documentation such as a U.S. passport or military ID. A full list of documents accepted by TSA for airline flights can be found at www.tsa.gov/real-id.

A list of deputy registrar locations throughout Ohio is available at http://www.bmv.ohio/locations

Obtaining Medical Marijuana

by Spencer Robbins

As of 2016, Medical Marijuana was legalized across the great State of Ohio with the passage of House Bill 523. The known benefits of Medical Marijuana are rising as the Ohio Medical Board has so far approved its medicinal use to treat a total of 21 conditions. As such, for those who have one or more of these conditions, it is important to know how to obtain medical marijuana in Ohio.

The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) has broken down the process into three easy steps. To get started, one must have one of the 21 qualifying conditions approved by the Ohio Medical Board. An exhaustive list can be found on the OMMCP’s website which is listed at the bottom of this article. If you have one of the qualifying conditions, you will have to meet with a certified physician to get a recommendation for medical marijuana. Ohio requires all physicians who are recommending medical marijuana to patients to carry a Certificate to Recommend. If you are unsure whether your physician is certified, the OMMCP’s website has a list of all certified physicians.

Once you have met with a recommending certified physician, you will be entered into a registry and sent an email prompting you to log into your profile. After you login, you will have to complete an application and pay the annual registration fee of $50. It is through your online profile where you will be able to download your official Ohio medical marijuana card.

After obtaining your medical marijuana card, the final step is to find a dispensary that is licensed by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy. The OMMCP’s website has a list of all licensed dispensaries in the State of Ohio. At the dispensary, staff will counsel you on the type and dosage of marijuana needed to treat your condition.

There are also some additional considerations to be made before applying for a medical marijuana card.  While medical marijuana is certainly legal in Ohio, it does not mean that properly registered medical marijuana users have free reign to use marijuana as they please. Registered users will be required to have a state patient card readily available, purchase products from state-approved dispensaries, possess no more than a 90-day supply, keep products in original containers, use approved methods of consumption, which excludes smoking, refrain from growing marijuana at home and refrain from operating a vehicle, aircraft or watercraft while impaired.

It is also important to note that it is currently unclear how registering for the state program will affect medical marijuana user’s daily lives. For instance, marijuana is still illegal under federal law and employers will still be able to fire employees who use medical marijuana. As such, prospective medical marijuana users should consider how registering for the state medical marijuana program might affect them.

Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s Website:  http://www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov

Child Support changes, did you know about them?

In Ohio, about 30% of the families that are supposed to receive child support payments do not receive anything at all.  Most experts believe that the payments are not being made because the child support payments are too high for the non-custodial parent to make.  In response to this crisis, Ohio lawmakers have passed House Bill 366 in June of this year and it has been signed into law by the Governor.  This new law will take effect in March of 2019, but some provisions already went into effect in September of 2018.  The purpose of the law was to revamp the child support system here in Ohio.  The last time the child support structure was changed was back in 1992.   

The changes that will go into effect are an attempt to ensure more support money for the children and their custodial caregivers.  The income tables used to determine child support payment amounts are being rewritten to bring the payment schedule into the 21st Century.  Currently, the minimum payment that someone can pay for child support is $50 per month.  This amount will be raised to $80 per month. 

This also means that if you have multiple orders, your total payment may change.  Currently, if you have children with more than one person, the first parent to file for child support generally gets more than subsequent filing parents.  These provisions will change that to ensure that each child starts out at a similar payment amount.   

Of course, if you can’t afford to pay the minimum support order, there are still steps you can take to pay less.  Included in the law is something called the “self-sufficiency” reserve.  Basically, this reserve is an adjustment that will be made to child support orders for low-income parents to make sure they can actually meet their obligations.  This will also prevent payors from getting caught in an endless cycle of arrears. 

There is also a provision in this new law that will reduce your child support payment if you split parenting time with the custodial parent and spend a considerable amount of time with your child.  Shared child care costs will also be limited based upon the state’s average cost for those services.  The parent who receives the child support payments is also going to be responsible for the child’s health insurance and general medical expenses, which they can deduct from their income when calculating child support payments. 

These are only a few of the changes that will be effective as of March 2019.  Since 1992, changes regarding income levels, the increase in shared parenting and child care costs have changed drastically.  This law is an attempt to not only increase child support payments and benefits, but to also make the orders for those payments more affordable to those low-income parents that cannot currently meet their obligation. 

If you think your child support order needs re-calculated, call for a FREE consultation.
440 516 1010. 

Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative

In just the State of Ohio, there are approximately 1.1 million drivers with a suspended license.  Some of those 1.1 million drivers have multiple suspensions for multiple reasons.  The total number of active suspensions is thought to be over 3 million.  And these figures are from just last year! 

There are numerous reasons a license suspension can occur, such as: failure to provide proof of insurance, failure to appear in court and/or pay fines, too many points on your license, court suspensions for traffic (OVI) or criminal (drugs) matters, child support, etc. 

Because there are so many Ohioans that are on the roads driving with a suspended license, the Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative was started to eliminate, or greatly reduce, the fees that are owed to the BMV.  These reinstatement fees were often a hinderance to people trying to get their license valid.  With suspension/reinstatement fees ranging from $15 to $650 per offense, this program is a welcome change to those still owing.  Originally the BMV was going to stop the program on July 31st, but they have extended it to the end of the year.    

So who is eligible?  Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible for the program.  According to Legal Aid of Western Ohio, “[f]or individuals to be eligible for a reduction of reinstatement fees they must have completed all court-ordered sanctions related to their eligible offense other than the payment of the reinstatement fee, and at least 18 months must have passed since the end of their court-ordered suspension”.  There are also eligibility requirements regarding the actual offense that was charged.  Any offense involving deadly weapons, drugs, or alcohol are ineligible.  CDL holders are also not eligible under the program. 

To be granted a complete wavier of all reinstatement fees, you must satisfy the conditions above and provide proof of indigence by sending a screen shot of any SNAP case information from Job and Family Services showing (1) current status, (2) current month, (3) next review date, and (4) authorized representatives in the household. 

To apply for the reduction of your fees, you can apply online at https://services.dps.ohio.gov/BMVOnlineServices, stop by your local BMV, or mail in an application (BMV form 2829) to the Columbus office. 

To apply for a complete wavier of your fees, the application and supporting documents (SNAP information) need to be mailed to Columbus. 

Even if you have some suspensions that qualify for the program and some that do not, you can still apply to have the eligible fees waived/reduced. 

Highlights of NEW LAWS for 2019

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.   ~Albert Einstein

Some Ohio State laws have changed.  Keeping up with these changes are important as they may affect your life. Here are a few of the laws:

Cursive Handwriting: HB 58

The Ohio Department of Education must now make sure all students can read and write printed letters by third grade and cursive by fifth.

Illegal Actions While Driving:  HB 95 (late 2018)

Law enforcement officers are not required to prove that a driver is texting, but only that a moving violation has occurred, and/or that the driver was distracted at the time. Illegal Actions while driving would be writing, sending, or reading text messages; using cell phone or the Internet; holding pets; putting on makeup; any act the officer deems is impairing the driving.

Expungement (Sealing a criminal record):  SB 66 (late 2018)

This process seals the record from public view, but is not destroyed.  Citizens with additional convictions, including multiple felony convictions, can apply. 

If your case was dismissed, or you were found not guilty, you may apply for an expungement immediately. 

People convicted of both misdemeanor and felony offenses are required to wait a certain period of time before they apply. Those waiting periods are:

  • Misdemeanors: One year after the offender’s final discharge.
  • Bail Forfeiture in Misdemeanor Cases: One year from the date on which the bail forfeiture was entered upon the minutes of the court or the journal, whichever entry occurs first.
  • One Felony: Three years after the offender’s final discharge.
  • Two F4/F5 Felonies: Four years after the offender’s final discharge.
  • Three F4/F5 Felonies: Five years after the offender’s final discharge.

The following cannot be expunged:  Convictions subject to a mandatory prison term; sex offenses; traffic offenses (speeding, OVI, or reckless operation); offenses of violence (misdemeanor of the first degree or a felony); convictions on or after October 10, 2007; multiple convictions of an identical offense. 

There may be other exceptions―contact us for a free case review.

Child Support:  HB366 (effective March 28, 2019)

Here are some of the highlights:

1)  If you make $14,000 per year or less, the new monthly minimum per child will be $80 per month (it used to be $50 per month).

2) If your parenting time is greater than 90 overnights per year, your child support obligation could be reduced. If your parenting time is greater than 147 overnights per year, the court is required to either reduce your child support or explain in writing the reasoning for not doing so.

3) The parent who receives child support will be responsible for providing health insurance coverage. The parent who pays the health insurance can deduct that cost.

4) If you are paying child support to multiple people, your payments may increase. The new law requires that each child receive at least a basic, standard amount.

If the “new” laws affect you, contact our office at (440) 516-1010 for a free consultation.  We can help!

Decisions and situations encountered during a divorce. 

Divorce can be one of the most emotional and grueling times in your life. There are many unknowns and fears. No one enters a marriage believing that it will end some day, however almost 50 percent of all marriages do end in divorce.   It does not only mean that people have to deal with the end of a relationship, but they also have to figure out how to share and split everything, who will have to move out, and many other unpleasant things. There can also be many child custody and support issues to consider.

If you have children, don’t use them as leverage in a divorce struggle between you and your spouse. Make sure that you are being a good parent by taking care of your children, and by make sure that your children understand that you love them and have their best interests at heart.  There are several factors the court will consider in custody matters.

One important factor that will help determine who receives custody of the child is the establishment of who is the child’s primary caregiver. This can take many factors into account – the financial well being of each parent, the amount of time the parent spends with the child each day, and the proximity of the parents to the child’s school and other important functions.  Other factors include which parent has the most stable home environment for the child.  Most importantly, what the “best interest” of the children involved is most important.  Other factors and issues to consider include whether one spouse has problems with alcohol or substance abuse that could put the child at risk.  Sometimes when parents can’t reach an amicable decision about the placement of the children, the court will appoint an GAL (Guardian ad Litem).  This is a neutral person to access the situation and inform the court.  The GAL usually will complete a recommendation to the Court in regards to the children’s best interest.  This recommendation is not taken lightly by the Court and is used as another factor to determine custody.  Knowing the issues to consider will help you get custody in your divorce.

There are many decisions and situations that someone may encounter during the divorce.  We can offer the support and guidance needed to get through your divorce with your best interest in mind.  Never put yourself down, just understand that whatever was done will never be undone and you are moving forward in the process. We are here to help with the process, to take the fear and unknown and give you support you need during the divorce. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation please call Kurt Law, Inc. at (440) 516-1010.

How do you choose the right attorney?

You do not want “a Jack of all trades and a master of none.” At Kurt Law Inc., we market as your premier law firm. We have a strong group of attorneys that can help you with most legal needs.  We have an attorney that has worked in Medicaid, estate planning for over 35 years; we have a criminal defense team with over 50 years’ experience and so on.

Be a wise consumer of legal services. Interview several lawyers before choosing one. Question the lawyer about his or her credentials, experience, staff, and timeline for working on and finishing your case. Look for a lawyer who sensitively listens to you, candidly answers your questions, encourages collaboration, and considers you a member of the legal team.  You want an attorney that will be honest, direct, and get the best result possible. At Kurt Law, that’s how we provide legal services.  Under the law, we get the best result possible.

Before you hire a lawyer, have a frank discussion about fees, including how and when the lawyer sends bills. We always will discuss fees at our FREE legal consultation. We do have payment plans available, but litigation is costly. In your consultation we give you the costs and option available for your case.  Every case and matter is different and handle as such. Remember, you get what you pay for!

Once you have decided upon the lawyer with whom you want to work, consider the following:

  1. Don’t delay! Deadlines may affect your case and legal rights. For example, if your loved one died as a result of the negligent or intentional behavior of another person, you may have only one year from the date of your loved one’s death to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator. Also, if you are a surviving spouse and your loved one died without a will, there may be a limitation period on the property rights that you can claim as a surviving spouse. Finally, although most states no longer have estate or inheritance taxes, a few states still do; you do not want to incur penalties and interest by not filing the estate or inheritance tax returns on time.
  2. Take a notebook or journal with you to each appointment with your lawyer and make notes of your meeting, especially recording activities that your lawyer wants you to do.
  3. In defense of lawyers everywhere, I beg you to not shoot the messenger. Your lawyer may need to tell you things that you do not want to hear…difficult legal realities about your legal matter that your lawyer did not create.  Don’t. During this difficult time, your lawyer can be a powerful ally who you don’t want to alienate.  At Kurt Law, we will provide your remedies under the law.  Sometimes, it’s not the option you envisioned, but we will get you the best result we can for you under the law.
  4. Don’t panic if you have to go to court. Sometimes, it is justified, and sometimes it is not.
  5. Release your expectation of quickly finishing your case.  At your consultation, we can discuss your expectation and timelines on your matter.
  6. Call Kurt Law, Inc. for your FREE consultation (www.kurtlaw.com) at (440) 536-4530. If you choose to look for another attorney, feel free to call the Ashtabula County Bar Association at (440) 998-2628 for another possible referral.

So you were speeding…

We have all been there, it’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, the sun is blue and the roads are clear.  You are driving, minding your own business, reflecting on how great life is, when your reverie is broken by the angry wail of a siren.  Your heart sinking, you pull over and wait for the “ma’am, do you know how fast you were going?”  Fifteen minutes later you are on your way, ticket in hand, driving with an extra measure of caution.

Police Car What do you do next?   The instinct of many people is to get the whole process over with as quickly as possible. Many people take what they think is the quick, easy and economical way out of  calling the court and paying the fines over the phone if possible, or showing up at the first hearing, pleading guilty and paying the fines and court costs.  It is easy to look at a minor traffic ticket and think, “It’s only $100.00, it will cost me more in time and money to hire an attorney than to just pay the fine.”  At first blush that line of reasoning makes sense, however, the quick and easy solution can have serious long term consequences.


In Ohio there is a points system in place for moving traffic violations.  Depending on the severity of the violation 2-6 points are attributed to your license, and if you receive 12 points in two years you are subject to a six month suspension from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, after which you must take a remedial driving course and retake the state driver’s exam. This suspension is separate and apart from any suspension or consequences you might receive from the court.  Most moving violations are 2 points.  However, speeding violations can be up to 4 points while offenses involving drugs or alcohol are at least 4 points, and often 6.

Back to the question of what do you do next?  Call an attorney.

What can an attorney do for you?  An attorney can advise you as to whether you should fight your ticket.  An attorney can negotiate on your behalf to obtain a violation with less points, or no points.  In short, an attorney can help you navigate and unfamiliar system and keep you from taking the “quick and easy” way out that can lead to significant hardship later on.  In the long term, the cost of an attorney is a small price to pay to avoid the cost and inconvenience of a 6 month license suspension.

We Are Here to Help Small Businesses and Small Business Owners Harvest Their True Potential

We all know this is an exciting time in the Cleveland region, a time full of big dreams and great potential.  At the same time, the delivery of legal services is changing, and Kurt Law Office is changing as well.  To help businesses and individuals harvest their collective and individual potential at this unique time, Kurt Law Office, a woman-owned law practice in Lake County, has expanded the firm and added Practice Groups serving General Corporate and Small Business Services; Probate and Estate Planning; and; Real Estate/Construction Law.

Attorney Pamela Kurt, Owner and Principal at Kurt Law, described the change as an investment in the business community and people of Lake County. “More and more I have seen how small businesses can reach their full potential by using skilled, affordable legal counsel and business services.  One of our small business attorneys can be an invaluable partner who helps a small business owner harvest his/her professional and make their dreams become a reality.”  In addition to traditional legal services, a small business attorney can help minimize numerous business risks for small businesses through such services as general risk management, contract and document review, business planning, drafting legal and non-legal documents and, on the more personal side, creating a basic estate plan that protects the people and families that create, own, and operate the small business.

“We come to work every day committed to helping our small business clients build the life they dream of, protect what they have already built, and solve some of life’s more challenging problems.  We consistently counsel our clients about how the legal system can, or cannot, help them harvest their potential and accomplish their goals,” said Kurt.

As a forward-thinking legal service firm, Kurt Law Office is committed to providing innovative, skilled professional legal services.  Kurt Law Office is currently exploring expansion into several neighboring counties in the Northeast Ohio region.  We are also welcoming our most recent additions of Amy J, Casner, Esq. and Oliver Herthneck, Esq.  Stay tuned for more announcements as we harvest OUR potential!

Please call our office at (440) 516-1010 for your consultation for your business evaluation and/or legal needs.