February 12, 2016
League of Women Voters of Massachusetts
Please ask your legislators to support S.2021
 to repeal automatic driver's license suspension
LWVMA supports S.2021, repealing the mandatory driver's license suspension for people convicted of drug-related crimes, a punishment that makes it difficult for offenders to resume their lives after serving their sentence.  The Senate and House have passed different versions of that bill, and it is now in conference committee.

Please contact both your Senator and your Representative and ask them to support the Senate version of this bill, S.2021.  You can find the contact information here.

Ask your Representative to ask Speaker DeLeo and conference committee members Rep. John Fernandes, Rep. William Straus, and Rep. Bradford Hill to approve the Senate-passed version of the Registry of Motor Vehicles sanctions bill on ex-prisoners convicted of drug offenses, so we don't have some ex-prisoners prevented from receiving driver's licenses needed to hold jobs.

Ask your Senator to ask Senate President Rosenberg and conference committee members Sen. Thomas McGee, Sen. Harriette Chandler, and Sen. Bruce Tarr to stand firm on the Senate-passed bill that enables ex-prisoners convicted of drug offenses to regain their driver's license so they can hold jobs and help their families.

In September, the Senate voted to repeal the state law that revokes for up to five years the driver's license of anyone convicted of any drug offense and imposes a $500 fee to have a license reinstated after that suspension. Repealing the law is good public policy.  The law presents a serious hurdle for ex-offenders working to rebuild their lives.

In January, the House took up the bill. Instead of repealing the license suspension law outright, as the Senate bill does, the House bill preserves the license suspension for persons convicted of trafficking in cocaine, heroin or other hard drugs.  The term "trafficking" may conjure up images of drug kingpins, but, in Massachusetts, trafficking simply means selling or playing a role, however minor, in the sale of as little as 18 grams of cocaine, heroin and certain other "hard" drugs. That's 2 to 3 tablespoons, little more than a day's supply. Addicts often trade in quantities like this. Trafficking charges aren't limited to those who use guns or violence. The only thing that counts is the weight of the drugs. Trafficking includes those who play only a minor role in the offense, such as giving someone a ride or storing drugs.

The current license suspension law makes re-entry into society more difficult for drug offenders who have served their terms:
  • It makes it harder to get jobs since some jobs require driver's licenses.
  • It makes it harder to get to jobs.
  • If ex-prisoners can't get a job, they are more likely to end up back in jail.  We already have a 40%+ recidivism rate.
  • If people have served their prison sentence, it's unnecessarily punitive to extend their penalties with this license barrier.
  • The license fines and waiting times for this category of ex-prisoners disproportionately affect men and women of color:  while they constitute 31% of all convicted defendants, people of color represent over 75% of those convicted of "trafficking" offenses.

Thirty-four states have repealed such laws, including all the other New England states.  Massachusetts needs to join them.

Urge your own legislators to ask the conference committee to recommend the Senate version of this bill.

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