Relief from Delayed License Suspension

On March 30, 2016, the PA Commonwealth Court handed down a decision reversing the York County Court of Common Pleas and vacating a one-year license suspension on a DUI offense which was committed in 2004 but not submitted to PennDOT until 2014. The Court found that the 10-year delay prejudiced the Petitioner, and as a result her license should not be suspended.

This case involves just one of the thousands of suspensions PennDOT sought to impose after the York County Clerk of Courts discovered that approximately 5,000 unreported convictions, dating back to 2004, had never been sent to PennDOT as required by law. The York County Clerk of Courts forwarded PennDOT all of these unreported convictions upon their discovery in 2014. As a result, thousands of people who had long since served their debts to society were suddenly faced with the prospect of losing their driving privileges and all the penalties that could come from driving under a suspended license.

In the past, in order to prevail on a license suspension, a person was required to show:

(a) delay on the part of PennDOT, and

(b) prejudice.

In this case, the delay was the fault of the York County Clerk of Courts, not PennDOT. On this basis, the judge who heard the case in the York County Court of Common Pleas reluctantly upheld the suspension, but went on to characterize the 10-year delay on the part of the York County Clerk of Courts as "truly unconscionable" and a "patent denial of due process." The York County Common Pleas judge then suggested that the above rule be reevaluated in order to provide relief for persons who find themselves in situations such as what happened in York County in 2014.

The Commonwealth Court did create a new rule. Now, under the prior rule, a court can grant relief even if the delay was not attributable to PennDOT. The person must demonstrate:

(a) that the conviction was not reported for an extraordinary extended period of time,

(b) a lack of further traffic or criminal violations for a significant number of years, and

(c) prejudice.

The Commonwealth Court made sure to clarify several times that it was not going to draw a line for what constitutes an “extraordinary delay." However it did find that the 10 year period in this case  qualifies. 

  • published this page in DUI Blog 2016-04-05 18:17:47 -0400

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