Lawsuit to Protect Due Process Rights of those Arrested for DUIs
Florida has been one of many states that have strengthened their DUI laws over the last five years. According to current Florida law, when a driver is pulled over for probable cause by a police officer, the police officer will request that the driver submit to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine whether or not the driver is actually driving under the influence. If the driver refuses, then Florida law mandates that the driver’s license be automatically and administratively suspended for a “refusal to submit.” If the driver submits to the breath, blood, or urine test and is found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, then the driver’s license will also be automatically and administratively suspended for driving under the influence.
Automatic Suspension of Licenses for DUIs
Automatic suspension has been the law of the land due to Florida’s implied consent law, which states that driving is a privilege and not a right, and as part of the privilege, if the driver decides to operate a motor vehicle, then he/she is granting to police officers his/her consent to submit to a BAC test, whether through breath, blood, or urine. In Florida, the implied consent law applies not just to operation of the motor vehicle, but also to the physical control of the vehicle. This means that a person who is asleep and drunk in the driver’s seat may be found to be driving under the influence, even if they are not actually operating the car.
Does the Automatic Suspension Law Violate Due Process Rights?
Florida’s suspension law has come under fire as a possible class action lawsuit is starting to form; the lawsuit states that Florida is violating due process rights by automatically suspending the licenses of those caught under this measure, who do not have any opportunity to defend themselves in front of a judge. If this suit is permitted to go through, there will potentially be 240,000 people who could be covered under the class-action. In 2015, it was estimated that there were 61,852 DUI arrests in Florida, thus showing the overarching reach that this law has had on the citizens of Florida and their rights.
Current Practice of the Automatic Suspension Law
The current practice is that once a person has been caught for a DUI or refusing to submit to a BAC test, the officer who made the arrest will submit the license for suspension. The suspension occurs automatically with no judge review to ensure that the police officer, at the time of the drunk driving incident, had probable cause to pull the citizen over for driving under the influence; probable cause is a mandatory requirement before a police officer may pull over a car. Automatic suspension without judicial review is in violation of the person’s due process rights, which are guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Does a Hearing Officer Provide a Real Opportunity to be Heard?
The only due process opportunity that is provided to those who would want to challenge the suspension of their license is to prevent evidence to a hearing officer who is an employee of the Department of Motor Vehicle. The lawsuit states that this hearing officer rules against the citizen about 95 percent of the time, and states that it gives the illusion, but not the effect, of providing due process rights.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale
Driving under the influence is a very serious matter. A police officer must have probable cause before he or she may pull your car over and ask you to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test. If you believe that the police officer did not have probable cause to pull you over and your license has been suspended, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.