Law Removing Mandatory License Suspension with Marijuana Charge Goes into Effect
A new Virginia law that allows people convicted of possessing marijuana to keep their driver's license is now in effect, four months after it was supposed to become law.
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - A new Virginia law that allows people convicted of possessing marijuana to keep their driver's license is now in effect, four months after it was supposed to become law.
The new law was set to take effect July 1, but that didn't actually happen.
It was delayed while the state waited on word from the Federal Highway Administration that Virginia would not lose funding by enacting the law.
The general assembly removed the mandatory six-month driver's license suspension during this year's session.
A Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman says the state received notification from the feds recently, and the law is now in effect.
That means the DMV no longer automatically suspends driver's licenses for possession of marijuana.
Now, a judge can order 50 hours of community service instead of suspending a driver's license.
“I think sometimes when you lose your license, you lose your job - a lot of people do,” says Andre Hakes, the criminal defense attorney at Tucker Griffin Barnes. “And that can have a terrible impact on families, so I think it's a really good thing that this is an option for people.”
The new law only applies to adult offenders.
Anyone convicted of possessing marijuana while operating a motor vehicle will still lose his or her license for six months.
In October, the Virginia State Crime Commission released a study saying decriminalizing marijuana would prevent more than 10,000 arrests a year in the state.
A Virginia lawmaker is working on a bill for the upcoming general assembly session that would make possessing marijuana a civil offense.