Goldstein Mehta LLC has joined with Equal Justice Under Law, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit to challenge Pennsylvania’s discriminatory driver’s license suspension scheme as it relates to drug possession convictions that have nothing to do with driving. Pennsylvania law requires courts to notify PennDOT whenever a defendant is convicted of a drug possession offense such as Knowing and Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession With the Intent to Deliver, and Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana. Once PennDOT is notified of the conviction, PennDOT is required to suspend the defendant’s driver’s license as follows:
- First Offense: Six Month Driver’s License Suspension
- Second Offense: One Year Driver’s License Suspension
- Third Offense: Two Year Driver’s License Suspension
Obviously, the loss of one’s driver’s license can lead to the inability to work, run a business, or even help family members get to medical appointments. This is particularly problematic when there are many entry-level jobs which are accessible to almost anyone but involve driving such as Uber, Lyft, and delivery services. Further, the driver’s license suspension has absolutely nothing to do with driving as it is triggered only by a conviction for drug possession regardless of whether the drug possession took place in a car.
Although Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail or 30 days of probation, the same conviction can lead to a two-year driver’s license suspension for a third offense. Thus, if someone is caught possessing a few grams of marijuana on three occasions, they will have their driver’s license suspended for two years even when none of the incidents took place in a car or while the person was driving. This two-year suspension is a longer suspension than that imposed even for a third offense Driving Under the Influence conviction.
This driver’s license suspension scheme has an extremely disproportionate impact on poor and minority citizens of Pennsylvania, and it simply makes no sense. Although legislation has been introduced in the state legislature that would eliminate this unfair penalty, that legislation has not yet passed and its prospects are uncertain. This lawsuit could force the state and PennDOT to reconsider this unfairly punitive and discriminatory scheme. Attorney Goldstein is serving as local counsel in the case, which was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The case is Harold v. Richards, et al, 2:18-cv-00115-CMR.