Pubdate: Fri, 04 Mar 2016
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2016 The Boston Herald, Inc
Note: Prints only very short LTEs.


Massachusetts could soon join the ranks of states that have 
eliminated laws requiring automatic suspension of driver's licenses 
for individuals convicted of drug crimes, provided the crime is 
unrelated to driving. But there is a kink in the works, one that has 
even the chief justice of the state's highest court concerned.

Of course no one wants to go easy on criminals involved in the drug 
trade. But getting to work, to school, dropping the kid off at day 
care or getting to the probation office - all activities required of 
a person actually trying to stay on the straight and narrow - become 
more difficult when an individual isn't permitted to drive.

The House and Senate have each passed bills that would end the 
automatic suspensions. (The change would still allow judges to impose 
an administrative license suspension at their discretion.) But 
progress toward final enactment appears to be hung up, perhaps over 
language in the House bill that would continue to impose the 
automatic suspension for individuals who are convicted of trafficking 
offenses, for heroin and other drugs but not marijuana.

We understand that there may be distaste for giving hardcore drug 
dealers a break - on anything.

But as Ralph Gants, chief justice of the state's Supreme Judicial 
Court, said in a recent meeting with Herald reporters and editors, 
the suspension is unlikely to serve as a disincentive but does 
represent an unnecessary barrier to post-release success.

"I frankly don't understand what the rationale is for excluding those 
who engage in trafficking," Gants said. "Even if you hate them, we 
still need them to be finding legitimate work and supporting their families."

The Senate bill, without the language excluding drug traffickers, 
passed that branch unanimously last September. The House should 
consider relenting on this small difference to ensure the bill becomes law.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom