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Massachusetts one step closer to eliminating automatic driver's license suspension for drug convict

In November, we wrote a blog post discussing the many controversial issues surrounding a current Massachusetts law which signals the automatic driver's license suspension of anyone who is convicted of a drug-related crime within the state. The law was enacted during the 1980s and has been the subject of much criticism from those who argue it serves to further punish individuals who are convicted of drug crimes and interfere with their ability to find and keep a job.

Earlier this week, members of the Massachusetts House voted to pass bill S.2021 which effectively eliminates the "automatic license suspension given to anyone convicted of a drug crime." The bill passed unanimously with the support of all 150 House members.

The bill must still be approved by Gov. Charlie Baker, who is expected to sign it. However, until this occurs, individuals who are convicted of drug-related charges will still have their driver's licenses revoked for anywhere from six months to five years. Additionally, once the suspension time period has elapsed, an individual must pay $500 or more to get their license reinstated.

The costs associated with this outdated and overly punitive law are significant and many of those drivers who are affected cannot afford the driver's license reinstatement costs. In fact, according to state statistics, while annually an estimated 7,000 residents have their driver's licenses suspended due to drug convictions, only roughly 2,500 pay the reinstatement fees and get their licenses back. Those who aren't able to pay the fee often take their chances and drive to and from work without a license, a violation that some 700 people are arrested for each year.

While the passage of bill S.2021 signals a positive step in the right direction of reforming many of the state's outdated criminal justice laws, individuals who are convicted of drug crimes still face many other costly penalties. For these reasons, Massachusetts residents who are facing drug charges are advised to contact a criminal defense attorney.

Source: Mass Live, "Massachusetts House passes bill to eliminate automatic license suspension for drug crimes," Shira Schoenberg, Jan. 7, 2016

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