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Driver Who Had License Suspended After Drug Conviction Sues to Repeal Pennsylvania Law

Russell Harold, a 52-year-old man from the Philadelphia area, has seen his fair share of legal troubles over the past few years. He was arrested in Philadelphia for drug possession when police caught him with prescription pills and marijuana in his pocket. He was sentenced to two years of probation, along with a two-year driver’s license suspension. That suspension will last until October 2019.

The suspension ended up having a greater impact on Harold than the probation. He had his own housecleaning business, but without the ability to drive a car, his business began to flounder, as bringing all his cleaning supplies with him on a bus was simply not practical. In addition, he has been unable to travel to visit family, as a lack of income to supplement his disability checks makes it difficult for him to afford a bus ticket to western Pennsylvania.

Harold has filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Tom Wolf and the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, challenging a 1994 law that makes these license suspensions standard in criminal drug cases.

Longstanding controversy over law

Harold is far from the first person to criticize the law. Pennsylvania is one of very few states in the nation to mandate automatic license suspensions for up to two years for a drug conviction. The timing of the convictions is inconsequential. Because Harold had a previous conviction in 1988, it added a year to his suspension.

Nearly 150,000 people have been subject to license suspensions under the law since 2011 alone. Harold, like many in the Pennsylvania legal community and others who have been in similar situations, argues that it’s irrational to have mandated license suspensions for crimes that have little or nothing to do with driving. It also makes it even harder for people who already struggle due to a criminal record to be able to get work and become a productive member of society.

We will follow this case closely as it proceeds. For more information on the penalties associated with drug crimes in Pennsylvania, consult skilled Reading criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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