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The Cedar Key News welcomes a new contributor Pierce Kelley.  We hope you, the reader, will read and benefit from the knowledge you gather from his, what we hope to be, monthly column. 
 
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
“ASK A LAWYER”
by Pierce Kelley
January 7, 2015
 

POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA INVOLVES LOSS OF A LICENSE TO DRIVE A MOTOR VEHICLE FOR A YEAR.                                 

S.W. of Cross City asks, “Last month, my son was stopped for having the windows of his car tinted too dark and the officer who stopped him smelled marijuana when he questioned him about the windows. The officer then searched the car and found a small marijuana cigarette in the ashtray. My son was then charged with possession of marijuana under 20 grams, which is a misdemeanor. He plead no contest to the charge, was fined $100 and had to pay $350 in court costs, AND he lost his license to drive for a year, which means that I have to drive him around until he gets his license back. Is that right?  Is that the law? Possession of marijuana involves the loss of a driver’s license for a year?”

 

Dear S.W.;

          The short answer is YES, that is the law. Please see Florida Statute 322.055 entitled REVOCATION OR SUSPENSION OF DRIVER’S LICENSE FOR CONVICTION OF DRUG OFFENSES. It reads in material part as follows:

…upon the conviction of a person 18 years of age or older for possession or sale of, trafficking in, or conspiracy to possess, sell, or traffic in a controlled substance the court shall direct the department (DMV) to revoke the driver license…for a period of one year …”

So, even though your son had less than 20 grams of marijuana in his possession, he is in the same category as a person who traffics in any and all types of drugs, with no limits whatsoever on the quantity of drugs involved. I agree with you. It doesn’t seem fair that your son could be treated the same as a drug dealer, but that is the law.

There are a few exceptions under the statute, and your son can apply for a work permit, plus he can petition for an early termination of the suspension but, if those don’t work, you, or someone else, will be driving him around for the next year. AND, if he drives while his license is suspended, he will be sent to jail in all likelihood. In my experience, it is usually a ten (10) day sentence for a first time offense.

Furthermore, if he doesn’t pay the fine imposed upon him, his license will be suspended for that reason, too. A person without a car is much less likely to be able to get to and from a job and is, therefore, much less likely to have a job. I heard a report recently that over two thirds of the cases involving the suspension of drivers’ licenses are for non-payment of traffic fines and non-payment of child support.

The people most affected by such practices are those least able to pay, because the people who don’t pay fines are usually people who simply don’t have the money to pay those fines. Governments, state and federal, are looking to increase their revenues and the easiest targets are those least able to defend themselves….the poor.

I hope I have answered your question, S.W., and I hope that your son qualifies for a work permit or is able to have his license reinstated within that one year period of time. So, unless and until the State de-criminalizes the recreational use of marijuana, or at least allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes, people who possess even small amounts of marijuana, as your son did, are subject to harsh penalties, which include up to one year in jail, though that is an extremely rare occurrence, and the loss of their license to drive a motor vehicle for one year.

HAVE YOU SPECIFIC LEGAL QUESTIONS?

Any readers with specific legal questions for this “Ask a Lawyer” column are invited to submit those questions to the Editor of this newspaper, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,   who will pass it along to the attorney. If you need assistance with a consumer matter, such as an unfair and deceptive collection practice, or garnishment of wages, a mortgage foreclosure or other such things, and you cannot afford an attorney, call the Legal Services office closest to you, which provides free legal assistance to qualified individuals, or call the Florida Bar Referral service at 1-800-342-8011. I wish you good luck in obtaining access to our legal system, no matter what your income and asset level might be.

PIERCE KELLEY

 The foregoing was written by attorney Pierce Kelley, who is a member of the Florida Bar Association. The contents reflect his personal opinions and beliefs.

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