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Pennsylvania stops suspending driver’s licenses for drug offenses

Act 95 of 2018, signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf in October 2018, went into effect Monday to eliminate driver’s license suspensions for non-driving infractions in Pennsylvania.

The law amends Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to reflect that a driving privilege suspension will no longer be imposed for certain non-highway safety violations, including drug violations unrelated to driving.

That means a simple drug possession charge that occurs in a home or away from a vehicle will no longer result a driver’s license suspension. The change, however, is not retroactive, so those already convicted still face the license suspension penalty.

“The General Assembly stepped up and enacted this commonsense legislation that promotes smart sentencing reform, but there is more work to do,” Gov. Wolf said. “Having a valid driver’s license often is the key to finding and keeping a job, especially in parts of Pennsylvania where public transportation isn’t readily accessible. We must ensure penalties promote rehabilitation, instead of the opposite.”

The law that Act 95 amended was one of many Congress enacted to punish drug crimes in the early 1990s, when the War on Drugs sought to significantly reduce drug crimes. Congress had threatened states with reduced federal highway funding if they didn’t enact the automatic driver’s licenses suspensions for drug crimes.

Over the next two decades, states began using a provision of the federal law that allowed them to opt out of these suspensions. Pennsylvania’s Act 95 allows that the state will no longer automatically suspend upwards of 20,000 driver’s licenses each year for reasons that don’t include driving offenses.

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