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Repeal Of Driver's License Suspension Law Passes Legislature

Mar 29, 2016 03:13AM ● By Bill Gilman

State Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover.

 BOSTON – State Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover), voted yesterday to pass legislation that repeals a 1989 law requiring individuals to forfeit their driver’s license for up to five years for certain drug-related offenses, but continues to maintain these sanctions for drug traffickers.

House Bill 4088, An Act relative to motor vehicle license suspension, passed the House of Representatives unanimously on a vote of 156-0.  The final bill, which reflects compromise language reached by a six-member conference committee, retains an amendment (#3 to the original bill) that was first put forth by Rep. Lyons & Minority Leader Brad Jones in January that requires driving license suspensions to continue to be imposed on those convicted of trafficking in narcotics.

“Given the scourge of substance abuse that is impacting families and communities across the Commonwealth, it’s important that we do everything we can to help those individuals who are trying to overcome their addiction problem and turn their lives around,” said Lyons. “At the same time, it is equally important that we continue to enforce strong penalties against those who seek to profit from the drug trade and are making money by selling this poison to our friends, family, and neighbors. This bill accomplishes both goals,” said Representative Lyons.

The Massachusetts Sheriffs Association, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association and the Attorney General all support the repeal of the mandatory license suspension law, which is seen as an obstacle that limits the ability of individuals who commit minor drug crimes to secure a job or receive treatment for their addiction after serving time in prison.

Under current law, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles is required to suspend the license or right to drive of any person convicted of a violation under the Controlled Substances Act, without a hearing, for up to five years.  House Bill 4088 removes this requirement and allows individuals to retain or secure a driver’s license if the crime for which they were convicted did not involve the use of a motor vehicle. 

House Bill 4088 also includes language authorizing the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to suspend the license or right to operate a motor vehicle for up to five years, without a hearing, for individuals convicted of trafficking in heroin, cocaine, morphine, fentanyl and other narcotics.  Although the bill allows individuals to apply for a hardship license after completion of time served, and requires that they be granted a hearing, the decision to approve a hardship request will be subject to the discretion of the Registrar.

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