Pennsylvania will soon end mandatory driver's license suspensions for drug offenses and other crimes unrelated to driving. Although drug charges still have serious consequences, an outdated and heavily-criticized practice will be eliminated.
Mandatory suspensions were based upon the war on drugs and several federal laws passed in the 1990s. Pennsylvania mandated a six-month license suspension for a first offense. A one-year suspension was imposed for a second offense, while a third and additional offenses carried a two-year suspension. The state suspended the driver's licenses of 149,000 for drug convictions unrelated to traffic safety between 2011 and 2016.
Critics of mandatory license suspensions argued that it unfairly impacted minorities and the poor. It hampered people trying to rehabilitate themselves after a conviction. Many people who did not have access to public transportation faced the risk of further prosecution by driving on a suspended license.
A spokesperson for Governor Wolf said that he would sign the bill by Oct. 29. The Senate passed the measure unanimously and it also received unanimous support in the House. The new law will also eliminate mandatory suspensions for other crimes unrelated to driving, such as underage drinking.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, however, said that the new law will not apply to suspensions that were already imposed for earlier convictions. Those suspensions will continue to be imposed until the measure takes effect.
Even with this new law, people charged with a drug crime should seek immediate legal representation, so they can mount a defense. An attorney can help fight a conviction or help reduce charges.