New DMV building opens in Hermiston Plaza

The Department of Motor Vehicles office in Hermiston shortly after its opening in 2018.

A Hermiston resident has her driving privileges back for the first time in more than two decades, and she hopes her story can help others in similar situations.

Sheena Tarvin said she is now enrolled in the state’s Driver’s License Reinstatement Program, which was created several years ago but only became available in Umatilla County in August.

“My license is freed up, and that’s huge,” she said. “What a blessing.”

Oregonians who had their license suspended for nonpayment of tickets can contact the Department of Motor Vehicles at 503-945-5000 to determine which circuit courts have judgments against their license. They can then call the Oregon Department of Revenue’s Other Agency Accounts line at 503-945-8199 to make a $200 down payment and set up a payment plan to pay off the rest of the sanction against their license over time.

Once they’re enrolled in the program, the Department of Revenue will notify the circuit court where the sanctions were applied, and the court can notify the DMV that those sanctions can be lifted, as long as the person doesn’t miss any payments.

Tarvin was profiled in the Hermiston Herald in February as the Oregon Legislature discussed a bill that would prevent residents from losing their driver’s license over nonpayment of traffic tickets. That bill was one of many that fell by the wayside when a walkout ended the session early.

Tarvin owed a little more than $1,000 on what at one point had been a $9,000 debt. The debt started in 1998 at age 18, when she didn’t pay a ticket for not wearing a seat belt and it got sent to collections. Then she got another ticket for driving on a suspended license.

High medical bills for the premature birth of her daughter, followed by a drug addiction, divorce, unemployment and homelessness, all got in the way of paying the growing debt. Tarvin eventually got clean and got housing, but she said not being able to drive herself to places like counseling appointments, support groups and court dates made that recovery process much more difficult.

When she got her $1,200 stimulus check at the end of April, she said, she rushed to the DMV to pay off the last $1,100 of her debt, even though there were a lot of other things she also needed the money for. The DMV informed her that instead she could pay just $300 now, and then set up a $100-per-month payment plan to finish up the rest.

“Once you sign up, they will free up your license, as long as I keep my payments up — and they are going to be kept up,” she said.

Tarvin said she hopes by sharing her story, other people might be inspired to check if they are eligible for the Driver’s License Reinstatement Program, which applies to people whose license was suspended because they have a sanctioning debt from an Oregon circuit court.

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