Legislation would Eliminate Drug Suspensions

At present, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is legally required to suspend the driver’s license of anyone convicted of certain drug offenses. This suspension requirement takes effect regardless of whether or not a motor vehicle was involved in the drug crime. For example, the simple possession of illegal drugs in a person’s home will trigger a mandatory license suspension, even if a vehicle was not involved. Governor Michael Dukakis implemented the automatic license suspension requirement for 94C offenses in 1989. It requires the RMV to impose license losses ranging from 1 to 5 years in length, depending on the crime. The Registry charges a $500.00 reinstatement fee for these suspensions. MassDOT suspends approximately 7,000 licenses per year for drug-related offenses.

There is currently legislation pending at the Statehouse which would do away with automatic license suspensions for drug convictions in Massachusetts. These bills, Senate No. 64 and House No. 1429, propose to eliminate the license suspension penalty for drug convictions. If enacted, Massachusetts would join 33 other states which no longer suspend for drug crimes.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey supports the proposed legislation, as it was designed to “increase safety and opportunity.” The bill also eliminates the mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of certain drug crimes. Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which is the highest court in Massachusetts, has spoken in favor of the bills.

Those currently serving drug related license losses are able to apply for hardship licenses from the Board of Appeal or the Driver Control Unit of the Mass. RMV. These agencies have the authority to grant a 12 hour work license or early reinstatement of your full license.

Likewise, if the law does not pass, those faced with license suspensions for drug convictions will still have the opportunity to apply for hardship licenses which are issued either directly from the RMV or pursuant to an order issued after a hearing at the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal.