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Mayor Bowser Announces Plans to Change DMV Policy to Support Reentry

Monday, January 9, 2017

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser announced that her Administration will move forward with plans to change a District law that currently acts as a barrier to reentry for DC residents. Since 1992, federal law has required states to certify that they have laws to automatically revoke or suspend the driver’s licenses of residents convicted of a drug offense, and the District has signed this certification annually to avoid losing federal highway funding. However, DC can join the majority of U.S. states that have already ended this misguided practice without penalty or loss of funding by simply opting out.

“In Washington, DC, we value and support rehabilitation and promote employment as a critical component of successful reentry,” said Mayor Bowser. “This change will ensure that the DC criminal code is tailored to public safety, not maintaining antiquated and ineffective policies that place unnecessary burdens on District residents.”

Under current DC code, the District automatically revokes or suspends driver’s licenses for drug offenses even when the crime does not involve a motor vehicle. This practice creates a significant barrier to successful reentry, as many jobs require a driver’s licenses to perform the work, licenses constitute necessary ID for many people, and many employment opportunities are not easily accessible through public transportation.

To opt out of the federal requirement, the DC Council needs to repeal the law which sets the policy on mandatory suspensions and pass a resolution formally stating its opposition to the policy. Then, Mayor Bowser will affirm that she and the Council are opposed to punitive measures stripping returning citizens of driver’s licenses.