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Pennsylvania to End Mandatory License Suspensions for Some Crimes

The Pennsylvania State Legislature recently passed House Bill 163, which will eliminate mandatory driver’s license suspensions in cases involving drug crimes that were not related to driving.

The state had been one of only about a dozen left that would implement mandatory driver’s license suspensions in cases that had nothing to do with operating a motor vehicle. These laws have long been criticized by civil rights and liberties organizations, which characterized them as overly punitive, nonsensical and counterproductive. The punishments also disproportionately affected poor people and minorities. A first offense under the previous law carried a mandatory six-month license suspension.

The bill does not just affect punishments in drug crimes — it also gets rid of automatic suspensions for several other types of crimes, including underage drinking (when the penalty did not involve a DUI). The passage of the legislation was a bipartisan effort among Republicans and Democrats.

The folly of mandatory suspensions

Mandatory license suspensions may have their place when it comes to driving under the influence and other driving-related offenses, but there was never much sense to implementing those suspensions as punishments for other types of crimes. Ultimately, it ended up hurting the people being punished more than anything. Poor people who depended on their driver’s license to get to work or school were unable to make those commutes. That could easily cause them to lose their jobs, putting them into a cycle of crime and/or drug abuse that the law is supposed to prevent.

The new law is a big win for law enforcement and individuals facing non-driving charges in the state of Pennsylvania. It provides a more sensible set of rules that are not overly punitive or nonsensical in nature.

If you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, meet with trusted Berks County criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.


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