Massachusetts has joined the majority of states that have scaled back or scrapped laws that automatically suspend the driver’s licenses of people with drug convictions and often charge hefty fees to get them reinstated, reports Stateline. Many of the license suspension laws were prompted by a 1991 federal law that threatened to withhold a portion of states’ highway funding if they didn’t suspend driver’s licenses after a drug conviction.
Nearly 40 states have since taken advantage of a provision of the law that allows them to opt out. While penalties remain for people convicted of driving while high, those whose drug convictions have nothing to do with driving are able to hold on to their licenses. Today, just 12 states and the District of Columbia remain covered by the federal law, says the Prison Policy Initiative. Amid a move in many states to make it easier for people with criminal records to re-enter society, some of them are reconsidering. Last year, Ohio gave judges discretion over whether to suspend driver’s licenses for drug crimes. Legislation proposed this year in Washington, D.C., and Virginia would repeal their current suspension laws. Last week, the Virginia Senate approved another bill that would end the practice just for those convicted of marijuana possession.