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Virginia legislature votes not to suspend licenses for marijuana offenses

Posted by Phoenix Harris | Feb 04, 2016 | 0 Comments

Harris & Carmichael, PLLC provided testimony to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee in support of pending legislation that affects whether defendants facing marijuana charges will have their driver's licenses suspended.  After a committee vote on February 3, the bill was referred to the Senate for a vote.  

On February 5, 2016, Senate Bill 327 was passed on the Senate floor.  This bill, which previously incorporated Senate Bill 613, addresses statutory suspension of licenses for marijuana convictions in two ways.  1) It eliminates the 6-month suspension of license for simple possession of marijuana, and 2) it would eliminate the 6-month suspension of license for those taking advantage of the statutory deferred disposition for simple possession. 

Harris & Carmichael, PLLC's testimony included information on 1) the adverse effects a license suspension has on the vast majority of defendants faced with this type of charge; 2) whether marijuana really is a gateway drug, or whether there are users who never move on to more serious criminal conduct; 3) whether suspending a license actually does, in fact, discourage further drug use; 4) the types of cases which also suspend licenses for non-driving offenses.  The firm's lawyers are uniquely situated to provide insight into this issue due to their years of service as public defenders, representing individuals who are acutely affected by this issue, which often creates even more problems than the fact of conviction. 

This bill will now proceed to a House committee and then, hopefully, to the House floor for a vote.  If presented to and signed by the governor, it will correct a failed policy which does little to achieve its goal of keeping the roads of the Commonwealth safer.  (Juveniles convicted of marijuana possession, however, will still have suspended licenses per statute.)

In effect, this could have a serious and positive impact on those individuals who are convicted of simple possession of marijuana.  Currently, the mandatory license suspension affects employment, and the ability to comply with probation requirements in a timely manner.  If this is a bill you would like to see passed, contact your representatives in the General Assembly by letter, email, or phone, and mention it to them.  

About the Author

Phoenix Harris

Ms. Harris was named one of the "Top 100 Trial Lawyers" by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2014, "Top 40 Under 40" in 2015, "Top Lawyer" by Who's Who Global Directory, and a "Rising Star" by Super Lawyers in 2016. In the past year alone, Ms. Harris has been responsible for dismissals, acquittals, or reduced charges in many serious cases where her clients were unjustly charged, such as: accessory to homicide, felonious mob assault, attempted malicious wounding, robbery, abduction, arson, possession with intent to distribute, burglary, counterfeiting, sodomy with a minor, child abuse, domestic assault, and more

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