Multiple DWIs may continue to lead to a lifetime driver’s licenses revocation, according to a new decision by New York’s highest court.
The New York Court of Appeals recently heard a case about the Department of Motor Vehicle’s policy of refusing to reinstate the driver’s licenses for drivers convicted of multiple DWIs. In a unanimous decision, the state’s highest court upheld the policy. The DMV will continue to deny relicensing for drivers who have five or more DWI convictions on their record in almost all circumstances.
Lawsuit alleged DMV overreach
Three previous DWI offenders filed a recent lawsuit, claiming that the DMV’s policy was overly broad and an overreach of its authority.
In 2012, the DMV adopted amendments at the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo under the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Beginning in 2012, after the mandatory minimum license revocation period is over, a license can only be reinstated at the discretion of the DMV commissioner. The upshot of the amendments is that it made it nearly impossible to have a driver’s license reinstated after multiple DWIs in some circumstances.
The VTL requires a minimum mandatory revocation of five years if the applicant:
- Has five or more lifetime DWI convictions
- Has three DWI convictions in the last 25 years, combined with another serious driving offense
The DMV policy has led to over 13,000 applicants being denied driver’s licenses since 2012. Three of those people sued the DMV’s policy, arguing that it violated the law, since the commissioner has not granted a waiver in any but the most extreme circumstances, meaning the DMV’s policy is essentially to have a lifetime revocation in the above circumstances.
The court disagreed. They held that the law did not entitle offenders to have their license reinstated, instead holding that the DMV has broad policy authority when enforcing the VTL.
Even a first DWI conviction can lead to significant penalties, including a driver’s license suspension. With any DWI conviction, the law balances the need for public safety with the defendant’s need to drive for work and other essential activities. As you can see, courts and the DMV generally err on the side of promoting public safety.