Bill to be debated by Senate today
BOSTON—The Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus, led by Co-Chairs Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland), endorsed a priority bill of the Caucus that lessens harmful barriers to successful reintegration into the community.
S.1812/H.3039, An Act relative to motor vehicle license suspension, filed by Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) and Representative Elizabeth Malia (D-Boston), would remove the mandatory license suspension for an individual convicted of a drug crime for up to five years. It also removes the $500 fine that drug offenders need to pay to reinstate their license.
Under current law, individuals convicted of a non-violent drug offense are subject to a collateral automatic license suspension for up to five years and a license reinstatement fee of $500, even if the offense does not involve vehicles in any way. Thirty-four states, including ones in New England, have already taken action to repeal similar laws. The bill is scheduled for debate at formal session in the Senate on Thursday.
“This legislation is about ensuring that once a person convicted of a drug offense has served their time, he or she has one more tool to return to society as a productive citizen: a driver’s license, which dramatically increases the ability to find gainful employment,” said Senator Eldridge, a co-sponsor of the bill. “In Massachusetts, we live in a society that punishes people who break the law, and then fails to give them the necessary opportunities and skills to avoid returning to a life of crime. Passing S.1812 will mark a significant step away from this backwards way of thinking.”
“If you can’t drive, it’s hard to have a job,” said Representative Sannicandro, a co-sponsor of the bill. “We want people to work and be self-supportive. This bill will end a harmful practice that has created unnecessary obstacles for folks who are trying to put their lives back together after being incarcerated. As a State, we should be doing all we can to ensure successful reentry into the community and if this bill becomes law, we will be taking an important step in that direction.”
The bill would have no effect on license suspension penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and only removes the outdated state requirement that penalizes every drug offense with a license suspension, even for non-driving offenses. It will also allow anyone previously subject to this provision to have their license reinstated without a fee.