In the past, people in Pennsylvania charged with drug possession saw their driver’s licenses suspended, even if the related arrest happened away from a vehicle or in a home. This law stemmed from an act of Congress in the early 1990s which required states to automatically suspend driver’s licenses for unrelated drug crimes or lose federal funding for highway maintenance.
However, now that a law the governor signed last October has taken effect earlier this week, non-driving infractions, including drug charges, are no longer grounds for license suspensions in Pennsylvania. The governor praised the act as common-sense legislation that promotes rehabilitation, noting that finding and keeping a job often depends upon having a valid driver’s license.
States resisted the original measure requiring automatic driver’s license suspensions for drug crimes by taking advantage of a provision of federal law that allowed them to opt out. This process took place over the course of approximately two decades.
Prior to passage of the law, the estimated number of Pennsylvania drivers who saw their licenses suspended for reasons unrelated to driving offenses every year was approximately 20,000. However, it is important to note that the law only applies to new drug charges that occur after the law’s effective date. In other words, the law does not apply retroactively to overturn suspensions that occurred before the law went into effect.
The measure is good news for Pennsylvanians who may face drug charges in the future, but conviction on such charges can still carry hefty penalties and lifelong consequences apart from loss of driving privileges, meaning that it may be worthwhile to discuss the case with an attorney.