Suspended Driver’s License
Suspended Driver’s License
If you have been charged with driving on a Suspended Driver’s License, please call or email me as soon as possible. Like nearly every other type of criminal charge, it is critical to be proactive and take some action to defend yourself before your next court date. This is especially true since you are going to have to deal with the administrative nightmare known as the Rhode Island Division of Motor vehicles.
There are two types of Suspended Driver’s License charges in Rhode Island. The first Suspended Driver’s License charge normally involves a situation where a driver has failed to pay a speeding ticket and has had his driver’s license suspended. The second Suspended Driver’s License charge involves a driver who has had his license suspended for a charge of Driving Under the Influence or Refusal to take a Chemical Test.
In the former instance, the penalty typically involves a relatively small fine with no further loss of the driver’s license. In the latter charge, the statutory penalty calls for a mandatory ten (10) days in jail.
When it comes to a Rhode Island driver’s license, the Division of Motor Vehicles gives, and takes away. And it is almost entirely up to the Division of Motor Vehicles whether or not to suspend a driver’s license based upon certain statutory criteria.
The teaching point here is that fundamental due process requires the Division of Motor vehicles to notify a licensee of suspension and the right to have a hearing. This is often called notice and the opportunity to be heard. Assuming that the Division of Motor Vehicles upholds the suspension, or the licensee does not request a hearing, the suspension goes into effect.
The notice that the Division of Motor Vehicles sends to the licensee is sent to the last known mailing address for the licensee on record with the Division of Motor Vehicles. If the licensee has moved and did not notify the Division of Motor Vehicles of the new address and the notice goes to the old address, too bad.
How many people know that they have a legal obligation to notify the Division of Motor Vehicles of their new address every time they move? Not many. But that requirement is actually written on the back of every Rhode Island driver’s license. Go ahead and look. It is on the back.
Additionally it is not sufficient to simply have the United States Postal Service forward your mail.
This notice and opportunity to be heard becomes super important if the licensee is charged with ‘Driving on a Suspended License’. If the Division of Motor Vehicles cannot prove that it satisfied the fundamental due process requirements of the notice and opportunity to be heard, it is very unlikely that the prosecution can prove the criminal charge of driving on a Suspended Driver’s License.
On only one occasion has the Rhode Island Supreme Court addressed the due process requirement of notice and opportunity to be heard. In that case the licensee driver claimed that he had never received notification of his driver’s license suspension from the Division of Motor Vehicles. As a result, the driver licensee claimed that he did not knowingly commit driving on a Suspended Driver’s License.
In denying the appeal, the Court refused to address the issue because it found that the driver licensee had actual knowledge of his suspension for failure to pay his speeding ticket. In so finding, the Court, in a footnote, stated that each traffic ticket contains a warning that failure to pay the ticket results in a driver’s license suspension.
Under this reasoning, if the license suspension was due to a traffic ticket, it would eliminate the notification requirement. That leaves very little opportunity to defend a charge of driving on a Suspended Driver’s License.