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Drug charges lead to license loss

Pennsylvania is one of 12 remaining states that require driver license suspensions for certain drug offenses even if the crime had nothing to do with driving. These automatic license suspensions constitute an unnecessary and expensive burden to drivers who have already been punished for drug charges.

These suspensions came from a series of federal laws passed in the early 1990s to deter drug use, particularly among casual users. States were threatened with the possible loss of federal funds if they failed to impose these laws.

License suspensions make it difficult for people to get to work. Additionally, they must spend money on public transportation or private ride sharing services to go to work, rehabilitation and meetings with their probation officer.

Since then, other states have dropped these suspensions. However, Pennsylvania still imposes a mandatory six-month license suspension, while a second offense carries a one-year suspension. A third or subsequent offense requires a two-year suspension.

This sanction has been applied in minor cases. License suspensions were imposed upon a person selling cough drops passed off as ecstasy to an undercover informant, a woman sitting on a park bench smoking marijuana and drinking malt liquor and a person who was searched and arrested on drug possession charges after taking a ride from a Pennsylvania State Trooper to a train station.

Governor Tom Wolf is in favor of legislation to drop these suspensions. A bill passed the State House and is pending in the Senate Transportation Committee that would eliminate these suspensions without jeopardizing federal funds.

Drug offenses, even relatively minor ones, can have long-term consequences. An attorney can help mount a defense against drug charges.

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