Barring veto, Utah will no longer suspend your license for a drug offense if you weren’t driving at the time

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ST. GEORGE —Until now, people convicted of certain drug offenses in Utah have had their driver’s license suspended, along with other penalties, whether or not they were driving a vehicle or boat at the time of the offense. That’s about to change, assuming the governor does not veto a bill that passed the Legislature Friday.

The bill, designated House Bill 144 in the 2018 Legislature, was sponsored by Rep. Cory A. Maloy and floor sponsor Sen. Curtis Bramble. It calls for amendments to the state’s Uniform Driver License Act. In cases of drug-related convictions where the person was not operating a vehicle at the time of the offense, courts will no longer have the option to direct a record of those convictions to the state Driver License Division, and the division will no longer be required to suspend a person’s driver’s license based on those convictions.

The bill is now being prepared in final form for Gov. Gary Herbert’s review. He may sign it, allow it to pass into law without his signature or veto it. Unless he vetoes it, the amendments should take effect 60 days after the Legislature adjourns its general session Thursday.

Penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence of drugs will remain the same.

Utah’s current law has mandated driver’s license suspensions after a drug conviction whether or not a vehicle is involved.

During an interview with St. George News in February, Maloy said his proposed amendments are important because license restrictions for those with drug convictions unrelated to their ability to drive only increases the challenges they face seeking or maintaining employment, thereby placing them at a disadvantage.

It is harmful to them, their families and communities, he said, because it makes it impossible for many of them to earn a living, go to school or receive health care, including drug or alcohol treatment.

“The law disproportionately hurts financially-struggling Utahns.”

It also presents a barrier to economic advancement for people with criminal records who have paid their debt to society and want to become productive, taxpaying citizens, he said, adding that placing barriers in their way does nothing to further that aim.

On average, more than 8,500 Utahns lose their license each year for nondriving drug offenses.

In 1991, federal law threatened to withhold a portion of states’ highway funding if they didn’t suspend driver’s licenses after a drug conviction, prompting Utah to follow suit. Then, in 2010 the Legislature passed certain statutory construction amendments that allowed Utah to opt out of the requirement.

Since then, Maloy said, nothing has changed, adding that the current restrictions are outdated and do not work. He pointed to an analysis that was conducted by the Division of Motor Vehicles to determine if the suspensions have any effect on reducing drug arrests; the analysis found no such effect, he said, “which is one of the reasons so many states have abolished the suspensions.”

Maloy’s current bill has received support from the Law Enforcement Legislative Committee, the Sentencing Commission and the Board of Juvenile Justice.

The bill passed the House in early February by a vote of 50-16, with eight absent or not voting. Southern Utah Reps. V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, Merrill Nelson, John Westwood and Michael Noel voted for the bill, while Rep. Bradley Last voted against it. St. George News attempted to contact Last for comment on his vote but was unable to reach him.

No vote was cast for House District 62 due to the representation gap created by the resignation of Jon Stanard and subsequent swearing-in of Travis Seegmiller.

The Senate passed the bill Friday unanimously. Southern Utah Sens. Don Ipson and David Hinkins voted for the bill, while Sens. Evan Vickers and Ralph Okerlund were absent or did not vote. Vickers, however, did vote for the bill on earlier reading before it reached final vote.


Read more: See all St. George News stories related to Utah’s 2018 legislative session

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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