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  • David A. Cmelik Law PLC

Iowa votes to end driver's license revocation for most drug cases

Last legislative session, the Iowa Legislature passed House File 2502, an appropriations and regulatory bill that also contained an amendment to the Iowa Code § 124.412 that struck a paragraph requiring the judge or clerks of court to notify the Iowa Department of Transportation for the purpose of a driver’s license revocation following most drug related convictions.

HF 2502 amended Iowa Code § 124.412, which before July 1, 2018, read, “a copy of the opinion of the judge if one is filed shall be sent by the clerk of court or the judge to the state department of transportation . . .” and any professional licensing board if the defendant possessed a professional license.

The amendment struck the italicized language so that convictions are no longer sent to the Iowa DOT. Revocation of driver’s licenses is a creature of the federal law and highway appropriations dating back over three decades.

23 U.S.C. § 159 requires that the Department of Transportation shall, since 2012, withhold eight percent of all Congressional appropriations for highway maintenance and construction if a State has not met the following requirements:

“the State has enacted and is enforcing a law that requires in all circumstances, or requires in the absence of compelling circumstances warranting an exception—

(i) the revocation, or suspension for at least 6 months, of the driver’s license of any individual who is convicted, after the enactment of such law, of—

(I) any violation of the Controlled Substances Act, or

(II) any drug offense . . . .”

23 U.S.C. § 159(3)(A)

However, a State can be exempted from the eight percent highway funds penalty if the Governor submits to the DOT no later than adjournment of the first regularly schedule session of the State’s Legislature the following:

(i) a written certification stating that the Governor is opposed to the enactment or enforcement in the State of a law described in subparagraph (A), relating to the revocation, suspension, issuance, or reinstatement of drivers’ licenses to convicted drug offenders; and

(ii) submits to the Secretary a written certification that the legislature (including both Houses where applicable) has adopted a resolution expressing its opposition to a law described in clause (i).

In addition, both the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate passed the requisite joint resolutions indicating that the legislative branch of the State of Iowa opposes the imposition of driver’s license revocations for drug related offenses.

Those resolutions were contained in House Joint Resolution 2007 and Senate Joint Resolution 2008. I have seen nothing to indicate that the federal government has rejected Iowa’s invocation of the federal law exempting the states from the eight percent federal highway funds penalty for failing to revoke licenses.

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