State Representative Jim Lyons (R-Andover) today supported the repeal of a 1989 law requiring individuals to forfeit their driver’s license for five years for certain drug-related offenses. The current law is seen as a deterrent to individuals convicted of minor drug crimes who try to secure employment or treatment following their release from prison.
The repeal of the 1989 law will not apply to those convicted of more serious drug offenses, however. An amendment to the bill (Amendment #3), proposed by Representative Lyons and House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading), allows 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 who have been convicted of a drug trafficking offense involving narcotics. The Lyons/Jones amendment was adopted unanimously by the House.
The Massachusetts Sheriffs Association, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association and the Attorney General support the repeal of the mandatory license suspension law, which was approved by the House on a unanimous roll call vote of 150-0.
“This legislation is a bipartisan approach to helping those who are genuinely trying to battle their addictions,” commented Lyons. “House Democrats and House Republicans worked together on this, and the ultimate result is a fine piece of legislation that I feel will have a positive impact on our communities as they struggle through this terrible ordeal.”
“This bill is also a signal to those in recovery that we will do everything possible to assist them in becoming productive members of society again,” said Lyons. “At the same time, it demonstrates that Beacon Hill is committed to fighting the drug traffickers who are spreading their poison and using existing laws to hinder them in any way possible.”
The mandatory driver’s license suspension requirement for drug related offenses was passed in 1989 under the Dukakis Administration. Federal law mandates that every state pass a law requiring mandatory six-month license suspensions for any person convicted of a drug related offense, including misdemeanor marijuana possession, or they will face a 10% reduction in federal highway funding for non-compliance.
“Today’s legislation also aligns well with Governor Baker’s comprehensive opiate plan,” commented Lyons. “The Governor has been leading the charge on this epidemic in Massachusetts since his first day in office and his leadership on the issue has brought increasing awareness of the impact of opiate addiction across the Commonwealth. It’s my hope that today’s bill is the first step towards implementing Governor Baker’s comprehensive opiate addiction plan.”