Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Va. Lawmakers Don’t Think a Marijuana Conviction Should Cost You Your Driver’s License

Under new legislation moving through the Virginia General Assembly, Virginians convicted of marijuana possession for the first time would no longer automatically lose their driver’s license for any period of time. As the law stands now, people convicted of any drug offenses in the state have their license suspended for six months.

Capital News Service reports that under the new legislation, the provision wouldn’t apply to adults convicted of simple possession of marijuana on a first offense. Juveniles would still lose their licenses, and judges would be able to suspend the licenses of adults on a case-by-case basis.

The bill, SB 1091, passed through the state Senate easily by a vote of 38-2. It was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria and Republican Sen. Bill Stanley of Franklin County. It’s also expected to clear the House.

From Capital News Service:

Many people consider Virginia’s penalties for marijuana possession severe. A first offense for possession of less than a half ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, plus a six-month suspension of the individual’s license to drive a motor vehicle.

A first offender may receive a deferred disposition and dismissal of the charge upon completion of probation and community service. But such defendants still lose their driver’s licenses for six months.

About 39,000 Virginians lose their licenses each year because of drug convictions, according to Ebbin, who added that surrounding states have much more lenient policies.

“What we’re trying to do with this very good statute is give someone the opportunity of a second chance for making a dumb mistake,” Stanley told Capital News.

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