California DUI

Implied Consent

Fourteenth Amendment due-process challenges have usually been rejected so long as license suspension proceedings provide at a minimum:

  1. A lawful arrest;
  2. A sworn report from the officer;
  3. A hearing if requested; and
  4. A temporary license until the hearing is provided.

See Mackey v. Montiym, 443 U.S. 1, 99 S. Ct. 2612, 61 L. Ed. 2d 321 (1979); Schutt v. MacDuff, 205 Misc. 43, 127 N.Y.S.2d 116 (Supp. 1954). There are, however, isolated cases that have viewed DUI implied consent hearings as "quasi-criminal" in nature, thus requiring somewhat more than the usual minimal administrative safeguards. See, e.g., Heles v. State of South Dakota, 530 F. Supp. 646 (D.S.D. 1982). The Supreme Court of Alaska has ruled that "the same procedural safeguards apply in civil driver's license revocation proceedings for driving while intoxicated as apply in criminal prosecutions for that offense." Barcott v. Department of Public Safety, 741 P.2d 226, 228 (Alaska 1987).

In that case, the appellant faced revocation of his license if his blood-alcohol level was .10 percent or higher. At the hearing, however, he had been precluded from offering evidence concerning the accuracy of the breath machine. In holding that it was a violation of due process to keep him from presenting such evidence, the Supreme Court reasoned that "A driver's license is an important property interest, and the driver has a constitutional right to a meaningful hearing before the state can suspend his license." Id. at 133.

The California Supreme Court, in Berlingheri v. DMV, 33 Cal. 3d 392 (1982), has recognized that the continued possession of one's license is a vested, fundamental right that is protected by the United States Constitution through the Fourteenth Amendment. The court noted:

In determining whether the right [to drive] is fundamental the court [does] not alone weigh the economic aspect of it, but the effect of it in human terms and the importance of it to the individual in the life situation.

The court then went on to say:

We conclude that the decision to suspend a driver's license has a substantial effect on a right which, for the purpose of judicial review of an administrative decision, can only be considered as fundamental.... [T] he basic consideration in determining whether a right is "fundamental" focuses upon the importance of the affected right to the individual who stands in jeopardy of losing it.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has gone further and held that the revocation of one's driver's license involves a deprivation of a federal "liberty" right. The court, in discussing that the revocation procedures of the DMV satisfy due process, stated:

We find such a federal right by adopting the analysis of the First Circuit which held that the use of a motor vehicle is a "liberty" interest protected by due process. [citations] Therefore, the application and suspension of such a motor vehicle license must comport with the due process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Schuman v. California, 584 F.2d 868 (1978).

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California DUI