'Geographic Prison' Enforced By License Suspension Laws Up For Debate With Two PA Bills

Oct 27, 2017

Legislation is being introduced to end driver's license suspensions for people convicted of a non-vehicle related crimes.

Currently, charges including theft, purchase of alcohol and tobacco as a minor, carrying a false identification card and drug possession can result in a license suspension that can last several years after a prison sentence is carried out.

House Bill 42 and House Bill 163, both sponsored by State Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny, Washington), would offer a pathway for ID reinstatement. He hosted an event Friday at the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh introducing fellow legislators to several ex-offenders still affected by the current law. Many told lawmakers they completed their prison sentences years ago.

"You could see the changes in the looks of the legislators [while hearing the testimonials]," said Khalif Ali, director of public policy and advocacy for the Pittsburgh Foundation, which sponsors efforts dedicated to criminal justice reform. "I think we did make a connection and I think this is a significant step in the right direction."

Several offenders said being barred from driving can be a huge barrier to getting work after prison time.

Joyce Douglass, a retired state parole officer, said she saw the current law as an unfair burden on people seeking a second chance. She compared it to a "geographic prison."

"When I worked for all those years, every time I ran into this situation I thought to myself, who in the world thinks this is a good idea? Why doesn't somebody do something about this?" she said.