Drug Conviction in Massachusetts and suspended Driver’s License

Massachusetts Law on may be changing as a Bill could repeal the mandatory suspension for certain drug offenses. It appears as though the proposed legislation will keep in place the suspension for drug trafficking but repeal many other drug crime suspensions.

In this web page I suggest the proposed change and below detail the current law.

Last month the House voted unanimously for a bill that would repeal the 1989 Massachusetts law requiring automatic license suspensions for drug offenses, regardless of whether or not offenses had a driving component. The Bill was passed by the Senate last year. However, Republican House members added an amendment to the Bill restoring the five year license suspension for drug trafficking charges. In an effort to uphold the purpose behind the Bill, the Senate added an amendment abolishing the drug trafficking exception, effectively repealing the House’s amendment and stalling the Bill.

The automatic license suspension for drug charges arose under a federal law created during the “War on Drugs” that called for automatic license suspensions for drug offenders but allowed states to opt out. 34 other states have repealed similar suspensions. As the law stands now anyone who has been convicted of a drug offense faces a six month to five year license suspension and additional fees to reinstate. The license loss is also reported on their Registry of Motor Vehicles record, which can be accessible by employers.

The law is a throwback to a time when less was understood about addiction and the addicted. Proponents of repealing the law say that the license loss has stalled people from becoming successful members of society. Often times the license loss effects the person convicted longer than the jail time or probation. The license loss prevents those convicted from finding or keeping jobs. It affects their ability to take case of their children. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and lead to new offenses.

The Bill would repeal the current law and would waive reinstatement fees for those who have already lost their license under the current law. However, the amendment added in the House would keep the five year license suspension for those convicted of drug trafficking. The Republican members of the House who support the amendment argue that traffickers are not the struggling addicts the new Bill was created to protect.

Proponents of a complete abolition of license suspensions for non driving drug offenses strongly disagree with the House’s amendment stating that keeping the license loss for trafficking flies in the face of the original purpose of the Bill. In an effort to remove this hindrance, the Senate further amended the Bill by removing the House’s amendment.


Under Massachusetts law, the RMV, Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts will suspend a Massachusetts driver’s license upon conviction of any drug offense listed within the regulations, 540 CMR 20.03. A conviction on a charge such as possession of any illegal narcotics, such as cocaine, heroin, carries a one year loss of license.

Drug offense convictions resulting in one year loss of license.

  • Possession of cocaine,
  • Possession of heroin
  • Possession of any Class A, B, C or D substance.

The Registry considers a conviction as a guilty finding and currently does not treat a CWOF, continuance without a finding as a conviction for the purpose of issuing license suspensions regarding drug offenses.

Charges of possession with the intent to distribute narcotics, carry a substantial license loss. A charge of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana carries a two year loss of license.

Drug offense convictions resulting in two year loss of license:
  • Possession with intent to distribute marijuana
  • Sale of drug paraphernalia to a minor
  • Uttering a false prescription
  • Larceny of a controlled substance
  • Drug offense convictions resulting in three year loss of license:
A three year loss of license will result in any conviction of the following offenses:
  • Possession of heroin with the intent to distribute
  • Possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute
Drug offense convictions resulting in four-year loss of license.

A four-year loss of license will result from any conviction of:

  • Second or subsequent offense of possession of heroin, cocaine or any other class A,B or C substance with the intent to distribute.
  • Second or subsequent offense of possession of cocaine.
Hardship eligibility following suspension of license for drug offense:

A motorist may be eligible for a hardships license following a drug offense suspension after one half of the license suspension period has expired.

If you committed a drug offense and need to apply for a hardship license, call Attorney DelSignore immediately.