Framingham Online News

Senate Passes Bill to Repeal License Suspensions for Non-driving Drug Offenses

Filed under: Politics by News Staff at 5:04 pm on September 24, 2015
Karen Spilka

MA Sen. Karen Spilka, a "Champion for Change"

FRAMINGHAM - The Massachusetts Senate today voted in favor of Senate Bill 2014, An Act relative to motor vehicle license suspension, Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland) announced.

This bill repeals the current law that subjects individuals convicted of a non-violent drug offense to an automatic license suspension for up to five years and a license reinstatement fee of $500, even if the offense does not involve motor vehicles in any way. Thirty-four states, including every other New England state, have already taken action to repeal similar laws.

The bill would have no effect on license suspension penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and only removes the outdated state requirement that penalizes every drug offense with a license suspension, even for non-driving offenses. It will also allow anyone previously subject to this provision to have their license reinstated without a fee.

“Our state’s license suspension policy is ineffective and stands in the way of successful reentry and rehabilitation,” said Senator Spilka. “It is much more difficult to find work, support families and lead independent lives without a driver’s license. This bill is smart on crime, considers public safety concerns and helps those with prior involvement in our criminal justice system rebuild their lives.”

Driving records currently include non-driving license suspensions. Prospective employers and others can purchase warrants from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) for under $10. This can be used as a “back door CORI” check, where employers purchase RMV records for the purpose of obtaining information about criminal records, even if they would normally be sealed, expunged, or shielded by CORI reform.

The bill prevents these checks, which harm the chances of employment for individuals convicted of a drug offense, and shields driving records revealing CORI information from public view.  However, information would still be available to RMV employees and others with a legitimate need for access.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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