Ending needless driver's license suspensions
Losing one's driver's license is an unexpectedly harsh punishment: Getting to work and taking care of loved ones can be impossible without a car. But every year, states suspend hundreds of thousands of driver’s licenses for low-level offenses that didn't even involve driving. We’re helping these states change course.
In 2014, we launched a campaign to end driver’s license suspensions for drug offenses unrelated to driving. Five years later, this harmful policy now persists in only eight states. And in 2019, we joined the Free to Drive campaign to end laws suspending driver’s licenses for nonpayment of fines and fees.
See our research and read about our victories below:
- In 2016, Massachusetts passed a law to end driver’s license suspensions for non-serious drug offenses unrelated to driving. The change was spurred by our 2014 report Suspending Common Sense in Massachusetts, in which we found that suspending the licenses of 7,000 state residents every year for drug offenses was ineffective and harmful.
- Since we published our national report Reinstating Common Sense in 2016, Pennsylvania, Utah, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. have ended driver's license suspensions for drug offenses that didn't involve driving.
- Our research and advocacy continues to keep this issue in the press, maintaining pressure on states that resist reform. For a selection of our press coverage, see News and editorials.
Research and resources
Fact sheets about the eight states that still suspend driver’s licenses for drug offenses unrelated to driving:
Reinstating Common Sense: How driver's license suspensions for drug offenses unrelated to driving are falling out of favor
by Joshua Aiken
Our national report finds that more than 190,000 driver's licenses are suspended every year for non-driving drug offenses, breaks down the problem by state, and illustrates why this policy sets people up to fail.
Aleks Kajstura explains why states should stop punishing safe drivers for drug offenses unrelated to driving.
Press coverage and editorial support
- New York And Pennsylvania Will No Longer Suspend Driver's Licenses Over Drug Crimes, by Nick Sibilla, Forbes, April 23, 2019
- Pennsylvania should stop suspending driver's licenses for non-driving offenses, by The Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board, August 1, 2018
Suspending common sense in Virginia, by Aleks Kajstura, The Washington Post, February 9, 2018
- Why Is Pennsylvania Still Suspending Driver's Licenses for Drug Offenses?, Brentin Mock, CityLab, January 18, 2018
- It's time to fix Pennsylvania's driver's license suspension law, by The Butler Eagle editorial board, January 17, 2018
- States Reconsider Driver's License Suspensions for People With Drug Convictions, by Rebecca Beitsch, Pew Charitable Trusts Stateline, January 31, 2017
- Our view: Florida drivers' license suspensions out of control, by Treasure Coast Newspapers editorial board, January 11, 2017
- Mayor Bowser Proposes To Change Policy that Strips Drug Offenders of Driver's Licenses, by Christina Sturdivant, DCist, January 9, 2017
- Driver's Licenses, Caught in the War on Drugs, by The New York Times editorial board, January 3, 2017
- Report questions driver's licenses suspensions in Pa. for drug crimes, by Kate Giammarise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 23, 2016
- Florida a leader in suspending driver's licenses for non-driving-related drug offenses, by William Patrick, Florida Watchdog, December 21, 2016
- Stop suspending drivers' licenses for unjust, irrelevant reasons, by the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board, December 20, 2016
- NY Still Suspending Licenses of Drug Offenders, by Andrea Sears, Public News Service NY, December 15, 2016
- License suspensions for drug convictions a problem in Texas, but not as big as the Driver Responsibility surcharge, by Scott Henderson, Grits for Breakfast, December 14, 2016
- Twelve States Suspended 190,000 Driver's Licenses Last Year for Drug Offenses, by C.J. Ciaramella, Reason, December 14, 2016
- Virginia's ham-fisted approach to driver's license suspension, by The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board, December 13, 2016
- Licensing law aims to clear reentry path for drug offenders, by Colin A. Young, Wicked Local, March 31, 2016
- Drug-related bill in need of repeal, The Lowell Sun, March 17, 2016
- Deal struck on driver's licenses for drug offenders, by David Scharfenberg, The Boston Globe, March 15, 2016
- Sheriff Tompkins: Ending driver's license suspension for drug offenders: A great step on the path to more sensible criminal justice policies, by Steven W. Tompkins, CommonWealth Magazine, January 11, 2016
- Editorial: Ending driver's license policy a smart move, by The Sun Chronicle Editorial Board, The Sun Chronicle, January 11, 2016
- Senate votes to repeal driver's license suspension law, by David Scharfenberg, The Boston Globe, September 25, 2015
- Our Opinion: Archaic state drug law should be repealed, The Berkshire Eagle, September 24, 2015
- Editorial: An offense that should come off the books, The Boston Globe, September 20, 2015
- Editorial: Repeal license law, by Herald Editorial Board, Boston Herald, September 18, 2015
- Suspending licenses over drug crimes questioned, by David Scharfenberg, The Boston Globe, September 5, 2015
- AG wants to repeal law suspending licenses for drug offenses, by David Scharfenberg, The Boston Globe, July 23, 2015