In Virginia, a law left over from the “War on Drugs” of the 1990s continues to negatively impact individuals convicted of non-traffic related drug offenses, while doing nothing to increase the safety of other drivers.
The law, which was implemented in 1991, was a federal law that threatened reductions in federal highway funding for states that did not participate in the automatic suspension of the driver’s licenses of individuals convicted of a drug offense. With the War on Drugs raging, states jumped at the change to ensure highway funding while also appearing tough on drugs. Oddly enough, states that chose to opt out of the law, as they were allowed to do, still continued to receive federal highway money.
The problem with the law is that it remains on the books, even as attitudes toward low-level drug offenses change towards leniency, and officials begin to understand that heavy-handed punishment does little to deter future criminal activity. In fact, harsh outcomes such as this can create or enhance the difficulty of an already at-risk individual by eliminating their ability to drive to any job they may have at the time, while also eliminating their access to other positions that require evidence of a clean driving record.
These laws must also be enforced by officers who otherwise would be working to protect motorists and ticket violators. When police are focused on dealing with licenses revoked for offenses unrelated to driving, they are simply resources that are being diverted from their primary objective.
For anyone facing a drug charge in Virginia, the prospect of losing your license may be more harrowing than the prospect of a fine or other penalties for a low-level drug offense. Having experienced legal counsel can ensure that you are made aware of all possible outcomes and the impacts those outcomes could have on you long term and ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved.
Virginia criminal defense attorney Thomas Soldan of Price Benowitz LLP has focused his practice on DUI defense, domestic violence, and gun charges among other areas of criminal matters. Previously, attorney Soldan was the President of the Fauquier County Bar Association and is now a member of the Loudon County Bar Association. He can be found on Twitter and YouTube.