Iowa Supreme Court “Just Says No” To Controversial License Suspension Law

Iowa’s federally mandated “smoke a joint, lose your license law” has been ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. As a result, hundreds of convicted drug offenders, many found guilty of simple marijuana possession, will have their driving privileges restored. In addition, the state stands to lose more than $16 million annually in federal highway aid.

With its recent decision, the court nullified a 1993 state law that imposes an automatic six-month driver’s license suspension upon conviction of any drug offense, regardless of whether the offense is driving related. According to the count, the license suspension constituted “double jeopardy” because it was a second punishment for a single criminal action. “There [is] no direct connection between possession of controlled substances, driving, and public safety,” wrote the court. “The amended statute authorizing this license revocation was aimed essentially at enhancing punishment for controlled substance possession.”

The Iowa Department of Transportation estimates that nearly 8,500 people had been subject to license suspension since the law took effect two years ago.

“It’s the first step in the right direction of common sense,” said Attorney Jeff Crispin of Des Moines. “There’s no logical connection between these drug offenses and driving privileges. It doesn’t make sense to have these penalties.”

Despite the recent decision, transportation officials have decided against expunging drug-related suspensions from the driving records of those who have already completed them.

For more information, please contact Attorney Jeff Crispin at (515) 288-7400.