People v. Condarco
Court Discusses Whether Suspension of a Driver’s License is a Punitive or Remedial in Nature
The defendants were arrested and charged for driving while intoxicated DWI while having a blood alcohol level that is over the legal limit of .10. In each case, the defendant’s license was suspended at the arraignment pursuant to Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1193(2)(e)(7)(a) and (b). The defendants’ Queens County Criminal Attorney moved to dismiss the dockets on the ground of double jeopardy under section 170.30(1)(f) of the CPL as the suspension of the defendants license constituted as a penalty. The following issues were examined by the trial judge:
1. Whether the statute violated due process right with suspension procedure according to the principles laid down in Pringle v. Wolfe, 164 Misc.2d 733.
2. Whether the statute violated equal protection right since the length of prosecution for Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.2 offenses varies throughout the state.
3. Whether a person will be subjected to double jeopardy if their driver’s license was mandatorily suspended and also prosecuted for the same offense.
4. Whether suspension violated the separation of powers doctrine as it was an administrative or executive act.
The statute requiring suspension of a driver’s license at misdemeanor arraignment based on driver’s blood-alcohol level did not violate due process, as the State was required to plead sufficient information with factual allegations supporting the misdemeanor charge, and the defendant was given opportunity to contest allegations. Where the violation of due process argument was successful by the New York Criminal Lawyer was where the underlying accusatory instrument on which the prosecution was commenced was either a simplified traffic information or a uniform traffic information.
The VTL requiring the suspension of a driver’s license at an arraignment based on blood-alcohol level of the driver charged with misdemeanor offense did not violate equal protection, despite the assertion that the varying length of prosecutions for such offenses throughout the State resulted in varying lengths of defendants’ license suspensions. There was the statutory speedy trial requirement under section 30.30 of the CPL which was same statewide, and defendants were, to some extent, responsible for determining length of prosecution by plea negotiations, non-appearances etc.
In absence of New York case law regarding to whether the mandatory suspension required by Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1193.2(e)(7)(b) was remedial or punitive in nature, the court looked at other cases in different jurisdictions such as the State v. Zerkel, 900 P.2d 744 [Alaska App.1995] and the State v. Nichols, 169 Ariz. 409, 819 P.2d 995. It was concluded that where the statute ordered mandatory suspension of the defendants’ driver’s license at their arraignment for driving while intoxicated DWI was remedial in nature rather than punitive, and thus prosecution of the misdemeanor charge of operating motor vehicle while intoxicated did not violate double jeopardy. The suspension was designated to promote highway safety and to protect public at large from injury.
Separation of Powers
The court’s suspension of the defendants privilege to drive, pursuant to the VTL which requiring suspension of driver’s license at arraignment on misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated, did not violate separation of powers doctrine, notwithstanding claim that suspension was administrative or executive act.
Therefore, it was concluded that the statute did not infringe on the defendants’ constitutional rights.
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