HB284: Minors with substance abuse problems to get second chance


By Abigail Norton

Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – Youth with substance abuse problems may get some help from a new House bill that changes the driver’s license suspension time for some alcohol and drug related offenses.

HB284 would reduce the driver’s license suspension time for alcohol and drug related offenses on a case-by-case basis. It would also authorize the court to order a screening to assess the need for treatment in alcohol related violations.
Rep. Bradley Daw, R-Orem, said that getting away from a “model of punishment to a model of treatment” is the right direction for substance abuse legislation. The House passed the bill Thursday, Feb. 26, 72-0.

Currently under Utah law, those 18 years and younger associated with alcohol in any way are subject to having their driver’s license suspended for one year. The court can reduce the suspension period if the individual completes an education series with a substance abuse provider.

A second offense leaves those 18 years and younger subject to a two-year license suspension, which can be reduced to less time if a parent or guardian provides a sworn statement in court saying the minor has not consumed alcohol in one year. Those 18 years and younger associated with drugs in any way are subject to the same treatment, but without opportunities to reduce their suspension time, something that would change with HB284.

Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan, said that kids need treatment and help, not to have their licenses taken away, a problem he hopes to solve with the bill.

For many youth the suspension of a license has big implications. “A driver’s license is a means to a job,” said Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden.

Redd, the bill’s sponsor, said HB284 has been in the works for years. Redd said he has received input from constituents in his district and has gained insight to the issue by working in the Cache County Jail talking to youth with substance abuse problems.

Art Brown, president of Utah’s Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, views the bill as an asset to Utah. “Only 84 percent of people involved in drugs and alcohol only ever get the treatment they need,” Brown said.

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