ACLU Sues Over DMV Procedures In Suspending Driver's License For Incident Occurring On "00/00/0000"

April 26, 2010 12:00 am

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The Rhode Island ACLU has today filed suit in federal court to contest the Division of Motor Vehicles’ actions in advising thousands of motorists that their license and registration will be suspended due to alleged unpaid fines that may go back decades. The lawsuit calls the notices sent out by the DMV “facially unconstitutional,” pointing out that they give the recipients no information about the nature of the alleged offense leading to the suspension, about the penalty for the offense, or even the date that the offense purportedly took place.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Warwick resident Gerald Carbone, who last week received a “notice of action” from the DMV that his license would be suspended this Thursday. In giving a reason for the suspension, the notice unhelpfully indicates that the “date of incident” was “00/00/0000,” that the reason for the suspension is that he was “not entitled to lic. issue,” and that the fee he owes is “$0.00.”

In addition to arguing that the notices themselves violate basic principles of due process, the lawsuit, filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorney James E. Kelleher, contests the DMV’s efforts to “suspend the alleged violator’s license first and then provide a hearing at some indefinite point after suspension.” It is “crystal clear,” argues the ACLU, “that a post-suspension hearing is inadequate to meet the dictates of due process.”

The ACLU is seeking a temporary restraining order against the DMV to prevent the agency from taking any action against Carbone. RI ACLU attorney Kelleher said today: “We’ve been down this road before with the DMV regarding their practice of shooting first and asking questions later. The United States Supreme Court has made clear that such a practice is unconstitutional under similar circumstances.”

The notices were apparently prompted by recent DMV activities consolidating and updating various agency computer database systems.

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