If you are a Wichita resident with a suspended driver’s license, a new Wichita Municipal Court program called “Wichita Area Restoration Program” or WARP may be able to help you get your legal driving privileges reinstated.

The program is modeled after a similar effort in Durham, N.C., and is aimed at helping people remove obstacles to employment and housing.

The city authorized $150,000 to help get the program started and is partnering with Kansas Legal Services to implement it.

Andi Elmore, a longtime professional in the criminal justice system as a paralegal, college professor and civil law administrator for Kansas Legal Services, has been hired as administrator for the program.

Elmore has offices in both city hall and the district courthouse to work directly with the courts and with clients in need of help. 

Elmore has worked with KLS in its pro bono program helping people with expungements and driver’s license clinics.  

“The need is just so great. The quarterly clinics help but the number of people who need help is just so huge that an ongoing program is the only answer,” she said.

Across Kansas, there are about 227,000 driver’s license suspensions, a number that is double what it was in 2007. About 85,000 of those are in Sedgwick County and almost 70% of all suspensions are for failing to pay fines or fees.

“Once it starts, it’s a snowball,” Elmore said. “You don’t show up for court because you know you can’t pay the fine. Your failure to appear generates another fine and a license suspension. Then, you get stopped and get another fine for driving on a suspended license. Or you get into an accident and you have no proof of insurance so you get a ticket. By your court date, you haven’t had the money to get insurance, so you get another fine.” 

Through WARP, people can get legal help to get fines and fees paid and all the procedural things that have to be done taken care of. The help is free and there are avenues to appeal for reductions of fines and fees.

“I think of it as a roadmap that helps a client get everything checked off,” Elmore said. “It can get pretty complicated and it’s easy to miss a step and go backward if you don’t have help.”

Elmore said the ability to get a job often hinges on “reliable transportation” and that many jobs, such as delivery services or commercial driving, require both a license and a good record.

“This program helps people get back on track,” she said.

The Wichita Area Restoration Program has an office in city hall, 455 N. Main. People in need of help can also call 1-800-723-6953 for more info or visit KansasLegalServices.org.