Is It Constitutional To Suspend Someone’s License For Repeat Arrests for DWI?

driving_car_automobile_driver-scaledEveryone knows it is a bad idea to drive under the influence of alcohol. However, even if you are in the unfortunate situation of being arrested for drinking and driving, you still have constitutional rights. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of the possible penalties you could face, including having your driver’s license suspended. These consequences can become even more severe if you are a repeat offender. 

David Carver was arrested multiple times for driving while intoxicated (“DWI”) under La. R.S. 14:98. The first time, he did not receive a conviction as he participated in a diversion program. He pled guilty to the DWI the second time and was placed on probation. Because Carver refused to take the test for intoxication, his driver’s license was suspended. Although Carver attempted to have his license reinstated, the State denied the restatement because he had refused to submit to the chemical test.  La. R.S. 32:667 prohibits reinstating someone’s license who refuses to take the chemical test for a second or subsequent arrest, which occurred here. 

The State later reinstated his license on the condition that he install an ignition interlock device. Carver filed a motion arguing that certain sections of La. R.S. 32:667 were unconstitutional. The district court held that sections (H)(3) and (I)(1)(a) of La. R.S. 32:667 were unconstitutional because they violated the Due Process Clauses found in the Constitutions of Louisiana and the United States.  Specifically, these provisions provided punishments based upon a prior arrest, not on prior illegal conduct that had been proven. The State appealed. 

On appeal, the appellate court (here, the Supreme Court of Louisiana) reviews questions about the interpretation of a statute de novo. This means the appellate court does not have to defer to the lower court’s interpretation of the statute and whether or not it is constitutional. All statutes are presumed to be constitutional. Therefore, whenever possible, a court must construe a statute to be constitutional. 

In reaching its decision, the court pointed to the evidence required under La. R.S. 32:667 before someone’s driver’s license is suspended. The State must prove that there were reasonable grounds to believe the arrestee was driving; the arrestee was arrested and informed of his Miranda rights and possible suspensions; and that the arrestee refused the chemical test. Furthermore, the ability of the State to withhold reinstatement of the driver’s license of someone suspected of driving while intoxicated was within the State’s police power. The State’s police power gives it the authority to enact laws to protect the safety and health of its citizens. This includes laws governing travel on roads within the State. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Louisiana held that the at-issue sections of La. R.S. 32:667 did not violate the Due Process Clause in the Constitutions of Louisiana or the United States.

If you find yourself arrested for driving while intoxicated, it is important to consult a good attorney who can help protect your constitutional rights. 


Written By Berniard Law Firm Writer

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Repeat DWIs: Beware of Dangerous Drivers; Man Booked in Ouachita Parish for Third DWI

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