Drivers License Suspension for Drug Possession Crimes

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 3, 2012

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A judge can hand you a suspended license for possession of marijuana if your state’s law authorizes the suspension. A few years ago, many states began implementing legislation to allow for the suspension of drivers licenses, even if the person charged never used a vehicle.

Two main policy concerns are used to justify suspension. The first is that if you have a license and you have a drug addiction problem, then you will probably drive while under the influence at some point, thereby endangering others. Essentially, the idea is to proactively prevent future crimes. The second policy concern is more punitive. While most states will characterize the suspension as “administrative,” the intended effect is to punish and scare those who used drugs into compliance by threatening to take their license.

Some states authorize judges to issue license suspensions on a discretionary basis. If this is the case in your jurisdiction, you may be able to demonstrate a hardship and ask the judge to modify the terms of your conviction or probation order. Other states authorize your state’s licensing agency to automatically revoke your license once they receive notice of the conviction. This is generally mandatory and non-discretionary.

Occupational Driving Exception May Be Available

Even if you live in a state with a mandatory suspension requirement for drug-related offenses, you may be able to get relief. Some states permit a defendant convicted of certain drug offenses to apply for a hardship, or occupational, driver’s license. Essentially, you ask the court for permission to operate a vehicle for purposes related to your employment. This may be particularly available if you have a commercial license and driving is your occupation.

Your state’s law will control where you can file for an occupational license. Usually you must file your request in the county where you were convicted or the county where you live. Once the judge hears your motion, they have the discretion to either accept or deny your request. If they accept your request, then they will issue an order allowing you to get an occupational license, but with certain restrictions. Restrictions will likely include when and where you are authorized to drive.

Before you enter your plea, you need to discuss the consequences of your suspended license with your attorney. If your license is your livelihood, you may want to discuss the possibility of plea bargaining to a different charge that does not invoke your state’s automatic suspension rules.

Contacting an Attorney

Until you get permission to drive, you should refrain from driving while your license is suspended. Doing so will result in yet another charge and further suspension. In the meantime, contact an attorney to advise you of the procedures for applying for reinstatement of your license.

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