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NY high court upholds permanent license suspension for repeat DWI

| May 18, 2017 | Criminal Appeals |

In 2012, the Cuomo Administration issued regulations allowing the DMV commissioner to permanently deny driver’s licenses for those convicted of repeat drunk driving. Several people who had run afoul of those regulations filed suit, and the New York Court of Appeals has just upheld the regulations.

The three petitioners argued that the rules were invalid because they hadn’t been passed properly. According to their complaint, the regulations are inconsistent with the statute they are allegedly meant to implement. Moreover, the petitioners argued, the rules go so far afield that they are more akin to the policymaking done by the legislature than to the rulemaking performed by administrative agencies.

The high court disagreed. First, they found that the petitioners had no basic right to be relicensed at all. Without such an underlying right, the assumptions in the rest of their argument are off. Furthermore, the statute clearly states that “the expiration of the minimum (revocation) period,’ relicensing applications are to be decided solely ‘in the discretion of the commissioner.”

As for their claim that the rules vary too much from the law written by the legislature, the court was not convinced. “The ultimate aim of the regulations — the legislative policy goal — is both well-established and widely shared: protecting the public from the dangers of recidivist drunk driving,” reads the decision.

Ultimately, the court found, the DMV commissioner has wide discretion in determining whether to relicense drivers and also has rulemaking authority. Therefore, the petitioner’s claim failed.

Beware: The regulations are strict for repeat drunk drivers, drug users

Under New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, your driver’s license can be revoked after a third DUI in four years, or a fourth in eight years.

What these regulations did was allow the DMV commissioner to permanently revoke your license if you’re convicted of five or more drug- or alcohol-related convictions in your entire lifetime. The commissioner can and will also revoke your license permanently if you’re convicted of three drug- or alcohol-related offenses and just one other serious traffic offense, such as an accident with a fatality, in 25 years.

Those with three or four of these convictions in a 25-year period won’t get any relief after the statutory revocation period runs out, according to the Albany Times Union. They’ll find their license applications denied for an additional five years.

There will be some occasions in which the offender can get a hardship license, which allows travel to work and medical appointments, for example. However, in such instances the driver will be required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device.

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