New York law firm Tilem & Associates has filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the New York State DMV based upon the DMV policy of instituting a lifetime revocation against certain drivers who have multiple alcohol related driving incidents.  Although the policy was previously upheld in Court the revocation policy as it pertains to drivers who have had a Certificate of Good Conduct or a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities issued to them is illegal and violated several provisions of New York State Law according to the lawsuit.

In 2012 the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles changed its regulations to institute a lifetime ban on what DMV termed “persistently dangerous drivers.” The term persistently dangerous driver applies to drivers who have three alcohol (or drug) related driving offenses and another serious driving offense in a 25 year period.  The new regulations have been challenged in Court and have been repeatedly upheld by Courts throughout New York State.  However, the new Court challenge relates to an individual with 4 alcohol related driving offenses including two felony DWI cases and a state prison sentence of 2-6 years in prison but who had a Certificate of Good Conduct issued to him by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.  Specifically, the Certificate of Good Conduct “provides relief from forfeitures, disabilities or bars to employment and licensing automatically imposed by New York State law as a result of his conviction.”

Certificates of Good Conduct and Certificates of Relief from Civil Disabilities are defined under the New York State Correction Law §703-a and §703 respectively and after a thorough investigation permit the Court or Parole Board to create a presumption of rehabilitation.  Moreover, New York State Correction Law §752 specifically prohibits the denial of a license based upon a previous conviction or based upon lack of good moral conduct if either a Certificate of Good Conduct or Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities is issued.  New York State Correction Law §752 does set out two exceptions to that general rule.

The exceptions require the denial to be because of a direct relationship between the license and the previous conviction and/or show that issuing the license would create an unreasonable risk to the safety of the public.  The problem is that for a person who has served his time and has been through drug or alcohol treatment and who no longer is a substance abuser there is absolutely no reason  to prevent them from getting a driver’s license.

In addition, Penal Law § 1.05(6) was amended in 2006 to add a new goal, “the promotion of [the convicted person’s] successful and productive reentry . . . into society,” to the four traditional sentencing goals of deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution and incapacitation.  This amendment by the governor and the legislature codified in the New York Penal Law an important government policy that convicted felons should be allowed to reintegrate into society and that once they pay their debt to society should not have their crimes held against them.

As such, New York DMV’s policies with regard to lifetime revocation seem to violate aspects of both the New York Correction Law and the New York Penal law.  This lawsuit, which appears to be the first suit that raises this issue will give the Court the opportunity to decide whether DMV’s policies are lawful as to those that have Certificates of Good Conduct and Certificates of Relief from Civil Disabilities.

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