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For more than two decades most drug convictions in Ohio meant that a mandatory driver’s license suspension of at least six months would be imposed in addition to any other punishments for the offense. The driver’s license suspension was required to be imposed even if the commission of the crime had nothing to do with a motor vehicle. The recently passed Senate Bill 204 moves beyond the strict drug laws of the 1990s and eliminates the mandatory driver’s license suspensions for a wide range of drug charges. The new law even goes further by providing an opportunity for previous mandatory license suspensions for drug charges to be terminated.
The source of Ohio’s laws mandating driver’s license suspensions is a 1990 federal requirement that all states impose such mandatory suspensions for drug offenses or face the loss of federal highway funding. The mandatory driver’s license suspensions had remained up through 2015 and at that point, Ohio was one of only 16 states that still had mandatory suspensions for drug offenses that did not involve a vehicle.
Senate Bill 204 was introduced in August 2015 by State Senator Bill Seitz from Cincinnati and reflected the change in priority for drug offenses from punishment to rehabilitation and treatment. The bill gained near universal support, as even a representative of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association told the Columbus Dispatch that a mandatory driver’s license suspension for drug offenses did not make much sense unless a vehicle was involved. Senate Bill 204 eventually passed through the Ohio Legislature, was signed by Governor John Kasich and became effective September 13, 2016.
The new law eliminates mandatory driver’s license suspensions for a wide range of drug charges that do not involve the use of a motor vehicle. The charges affected by Senate Bill 204 include such drug offenses as drug trafficking, distribution of anabolic steroids, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The courts may still impose a driver’s license suspension on someone convicted of a drug offense that does not involve a motor vehicle, but the suspension is no longer mandatory. Just as importantly, the new law permits someone who had received a mandatory license suspension for a conviction that did not involve the use of a vehicle before Senate Bill 204 became effective to petition the sentencing court and request termination of the suspension.
The suspension of a driver’s license creates substantial complications for anyone convicted of a drug offense. Not only does it severely restrict a person’s independence and create even more difficulties in finding employment, but there is also a large fee to reinstate your license and you face the possibility of severe penalties if you run out of options and are charged with driving with a suspended license. Senate Bill 204 works to ensure that the hardships caused by a driver’s license suspension are applied only in situations where it is warranted.
If you’ve been charged with a drug offense that does not involve a motor vehicle an experienced Columbus criminal defense attorney can help to make sure you keep your license, or work to get your license back if it has already been suspended.
Luftman, Heck & Associates explore every possible defense for our clients and strive to obtain the very best outcomes in their cases through creative and aggressive advocacy. We represent our clients on a wide variety of criminal charges, including drug possession and driving under the influence.
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