COLUMBUS, Ohio — Legislation that would make a driver’s license suspension discretionary rather than mandatory for non-driving drug convictions has been introduced in the Ohio Senate.
Ohio’s current law follows an edict developed by the federal government in the 1990s. Anyone convicted of a drug charge, regardless of whether a vehicle was involved in the crime, automatically receives a six-month license suspension.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, the Cincinnati Republican who recently introduced the bill to change that, said the law makes it difficult for hundreds of thousands of people in Ohio with suspended driver’s licenses for drug convictions to find a job.
He said those people are more likely to return to a life of drugs as a means of support.
“It never made much sense to have a license suspension in connection with a drug offense unless there is a vehicle involved,” John Murphy of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, told The Columbus Dispatch.
The state told the federal government in December that Ohio wants out of the requirement that driver’s licenses must be suspended for non-driving drug convictions, the newspaper reported.
Last session, Seitz sponsored a resolution notifying the federal government of Ohio’s intention to opt out of the Drug Offender’s Driving Privileges Suspension Act. Failing to notify the federal government could have cost the state 8 percent of its highway funds.
The proposed legislation also would allow a court to end a previously imposed license suspension for a drug conviction that did not involve a vehicle.
Broad legislative support exists for the measure, the newspaper reported, based on votes late last year.
Seitz said the bill was drafted by the Ohio Judicial Conference, which represents judges in the state.
But Sen. Jim Hughes, a Columbus Republican and former assistant prosecutor, opposes the bill.
“People need to resolve their addiction problem before we give them their license back,” Hughes said. “To me, it’s a matter of public safety.”