DC ends driver’s license suspensions for unrelated drug offenses

by Aleks Kajstura, March 23, 2018

Residents of D.C. will no longer have their driver’s licenses automatically suspended for drug offenses completely unrelated to driving. Not that it ever made sense to do so in the first place.

The new law ending the practice passed back in November with unanimous support from the D.C. Council and the Mayor. Then, because all D.C. laws must be vetted by Congress, implementation of the law was delayed until last month.

But it’s never too late to reform these old, outdated rules around license suspensions. How did D.C. end up in this mess in the first place? These odd laws were a product of the War on Drugs, when states were eager to pile on any sort of penalties for drug offenses. In 1991 Congress started supporting automatically suspending driver’s licenses for drug offenses, and states (and D.C.) jumped on the idea.

The decades since have proven that such tactics are ineffective as deterrents. And not only do these laws not work, but they actually cause harm: Suspending driver’s licenses for non-traffic offenses decreases public safety on the road while increasing recidivism for those affected. So at the very least, taxpayers are spending a lot of money on making themselves less safe.

So it’s no surprise that D.C. is finally joining the vast majority of states, and shedding these laws. Unfortunately, this common-sense move is not quite common enough: 12 states still suspend driver’s licenses for drug offenses completely unrelated to driving.

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