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Changes ahead for how Virginia treats pot possession and driver's licenses

Right now, most people are eagerly awaiting the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, which promises everything from picnics and barbeques to parades and fireworks. In other words, the last thing on their minds is the start of the state's new fiscal year.

While this is understandable, it's nevertheless important to realize that once the calendar turns to July 1, any bills passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor will take effect. Indeed, in less than 24 hours, several hundred new laws will officially go onto the books.

As it turns out, several of these laws will have a significant impact on the criminal law landscape here in Virginia going forward. In particular, the law concerning marijuana possession and driver's licenses will undergo a major change.

The law previously dictated that an individual convicted of or placed on deferred disposition for simple possession of marijuana would see their driver's license automatically suspended for six months. Thanks to the passage of HB 2051/SB 1091, however, this is no longer the case.

The new law does, however, come with a few catches:

  • The exception to the automatic driver's license suspension does not apply to juvenile offenders.
  • The courts retain the ability to suspend/revoke a driver's license, and will be required to carry out the automatic six-month suspension when the individual was operating a motor vehicle at the time the offense was committed.
  • The individual will be required to perform 50 hours of community service in addition to any additional community service ordered by the court as part of the deferred disposition.    

It's important to note that the language of the bill also dictates that the implementation of its provisions are contingent upon the receipt of written assurance from the U.S. Department of Transportation that the state won't forfeit any federal funding.

What all of this serves to underscore is that the law is not only complex, but constantly changing. As such, those facing any manner of criminal charges should strongly consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can protect their rights and their future.

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