It’s an unfortunate reality for anyone convicted of marijuana possession or any other drug offense in Ohio that the consequences include losing your driver’s license for at least six months. A drug-related driver’s license suspension can last for up to 5 years.
A drug conviction — even for something relatively minor like pot possession — already can have a lot of negative impacts on a person’s life. A lot of employers won’t hire someone with a record that includes a drug offense, and a drug conviction will kill most people’s chances at getting a college degree since you can’t get federal financial aid such as grants and student loans once you have one on your record.
When you add a driver’s license suspension into the mix, that further damages a person’s chance of putting his or her life together after getting convicted for marijuana possession. All of that can happen just because of a one-time lapse in judgment.
The driver’s license suspension for a drug conviction is something that’s mandated by the federal government. Basically, the federal government says that if Ohio wants money from the federal government to maintain highways, it has to have a law on the books requiring a minimum six-month driver’s license suspension or revocation for any drug violation. Without such a law, Ohio would lose 8 percent of its federal highway funding.
However, some Ohio lawmakers want the state to be able to opt out of the driver’s license suspension requirement. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, introduced a resolution saying that the General Assembly and the Governor are opposed to the enactment and enforcement of the driver’s license suspension law.
The resolution says that the requirement for a driver’s license suspension is burdensome on state resources and creates unnecessary bureaucracy, and that states should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to grant or revoke driving privileges that are issued by the state. Additionally, Sen. Seitz said in a press release that the state shouldn’t be suspending someone’s driver’s license for an offense that doesn’t actually relate to the person’s driving.
The resolution wouldn’t actually change the law by itself, but it would put the federal government on notice and allow Ohio to start the process of repealing the driver’s suspension requirement — and removing the potential for a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime and acts as a barrier to people becoming productive citizens once they complete their sentences after conviction.
The resolution passed in the state Senate in early December, but didn’t clear the House Police and Legislative Oversight Committee before the session ended for the year. Hopefully, Seitz will try again in 2015.