Governor Wolf signed into law House Bill 163 on October 24, 2018, which removes driver’s license suspension as a penalty for certain non-violent crimes that are not related to driving. These include minor drug offenses, using a fake ID, misrepresentations of age to buy alcohol, underage drinking, purchase of tobacco by a minor, and failing to pay child support.
Regarding the change in legislation, Governor Wolf said, “Having a valid driver’s license can make a difference in finding and retaining employment, which can ultimately help with the payment of fines, costs and restitution, and a reduction in recidivism.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, these driver’s license suspensions were mostly implemented for minor drug offenses. Elizabeth Randol, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said that “Repealing this mandate will prevent more than 20,000 Pennsylvanians a year from unnecessarily losing their licenses.”
These changes will make a significant difference for those drug offenders seeking to rehabilitate their lives who need reliable transportation to ensure that they can keep their jobs. Before the amendment, a person convicted of possession, sale, or delivery of controlled substances in any state faced a six-month suspension for the first offense, one-year suspension for the second offense, and a two-year suspension for a third and any subsequent offense. But now, these drug violations, if unrelated to driving, will no longer result in a driver’s license suspension.
ACLU Executive Director Reggie Shuford added “We expect people to get back on their feet and lead law-abiding lives. Yet, their ability to do so is compromised by the inability to simply get around in their daily lives. This law limits a person’s employment opportunities, housing choices, and family involvement.”
However, the law does not apply retroactively, and therefore if you currently have a suspended license stemming from a drug conviction, you likely will not benefit from this change in the law. Legislators who sponsored the bill are seeking retroactive application of the law in the near future.
If you have any questions about the new driver’s license suspension law, and how it may or may not affect your case or current suspension, please call the Wyland Law Group to speak with an attorney.