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Due Process and Automatic DUI License Suspensions

Due Process and Automatic DUI License Suspensions

Information courtesy of Lawrence Taylor - DUIblog

So you got stopped last night and arrested for drunk driving. And right after the Breathalyzer showed a blood-alcohol reading of .12%, the officer confiscated your drivers license and gave you a a piece of paper that said it was immediately suspended.

What happened?, you ask. Can they do that? I thought I was presumed to be innocent, and the state has to prove my guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before they can punish me. And I remember something about "due process": Can they suspend my license for DUI before giving me a chance to defend myself?

Good questions.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (or whatever they call it in your state) is required by law to immediately suspend the drivers license of anyone arrested for (not convicted of) DUI who (1) has a .08% breath reading, or (2) takes a blood or urine test (which will be analyzed later), or (3) refuses to take any test. This means immediately -- on the spot: the license is grabbed and the DUI suspension is legally effective the moment the officer signs the notice and hands it to you.

Viewed another way, the officer in a DUI case is constable, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. You have absolutely no rights. In fact, if you took a blood or urine test, they dont even wait for the results (which will come back from the lab days later): they not only presume you are guilty, they also presume that the evidence will eventually show it! So, again: How can they do that in America?

Well, at first MADD and various state legislatures decided to find a way to get drunk drivers off the highways RIGHT NOW -- and not be diverted by any technicalities like, well, the Constitution. So they enacted so-called "APS" laws (the phrase stands for "administrative per se", referring to the "per se" crime of .08%, as opposed to the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol, which is for the courts). They justified this by saying that a license was a "privilege", not a "right" -- and since

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