One of the major hardships facing clients who have been charged with a dui in Indiana is a license suspension scheme that allows for the suspension of an Indiana drivers license prior to any determination of guilt.
As stated elsewhere within the dui license suspension procedure section, Indiana allows for the administrative agency responsible for licensing drivers, (the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles) to suspend the license of a motorist merely for the allegation of testing over a breath alcohol test or blood draw limit of .08 or refusing to submit to a breath test for alcohol when suspected of drunk driving.
In the past, governmental leaders responsible for our highway policies have never advanced a consistant rationale for this procedural denial of driver’s due process rights. At the height of national attention given to the issue of drunk driving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other like minded political groups exerted unprecedented pressure upon legislative leaders within all states to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose to addressing the public safety issue of operating while intoxicated.
In the wake of this outcry states such as Indiana set out to pacify the concerns of these interest groups by passing and/or allowing governmental action that would not allow the impediment of due process to infringe upon government action to restrict the ability to drive of one so much as suspected of drunk driving.
As a result, when a suspected drunk driver is alleged to have tested at or above .08 or refused a breath test for alcohol in Indiana, the driver is subject to a license suspension from the defendant’s initial hearing forward, despite the fact that guilt or innocence has not been determined.
Unlike the rights afforded criminal defendants within Unites States courts of law, respective state administrative agenicies such as the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles have been able to act to suspend the driving priviliges of citizens without judicial due process. Under the theory that the ability to drive a motor vehicle in this country is a privilige and not an inalienable right, agencies such as the Indiana BMV have been able to get away with the present suspension sceme for many years as one not punitive in nature, and therefore not falling under the umbrella of due process protections of the criminal courts.
For those subject to pre conviction dui license suspensions, the notion that such action is not punitive is a harmful legal fiction. The shell game whereby it is judges in this state who recommend a pre conviction license suspension to the Indiana BMV further clouds the reality that drivers within Indiana and elsewhere should be owed procedural due process before any action whatsoever is taken to restrict one’s drivers license.
Allowing for procedural due process to envelop the procedure by which drivers licenses are suspended against those merely accused of drunk driving will not abridge any administrative power to suspend a drivers license. If found guilty of dui within a court of law one so convicted will be subject to whatever duration of license suspension those within the respective state have seen fit to establish.
Fundumental fairness would be restored to the process by which those suspected of drunk driving can not only have a forum to clear their name but to also be protected from the penalty of a license suspension imposed prior to guilt being established.
Courts of law throughout the nation recognize the potential fallibility of both breath and blood draw procedures, as well as the process by which arresting officers decide whether one has “knowingly” refused to submit to a test for alcohol. Through the forum of criminal procedure, the ultimate credibility of dui charges are decided. It is then that the true merits of pre trial accusations are determined. If found guilty it is then and only then that any and all penalties and/or sanctions are best pronounced.
Based upon my personal experience as a dui attorney in Indiana, I can state without reservation that many people who may otherwise fight a charge of dui choose not to based upon the present allowance for a pre conviciton license suspension. For example, to take a case to trial or to challenge an allegation of refusal may take close to six months time depending upon the county in question.
Since a license cannot be reinstated until such time as the court case has been concluded, many clients who may be eligible for a ninety day license suspension are compelled to take pragmatic action to put forth a plea agreement to close a case and insure reinstatement within a ninety day period. To challenge a prosecution requires a trial setting that may be far greater than ninety days in the future. As a result, those considering the merits of whether trial is warranted must be forced to assess the reality that such a decision could subject them to double the license suspension even if later vindicated at trial.
Interjecting a pre trial license suspension toward those suspected of drunk driving interferes with ones right to make a reasoned decision as to whether trial by jury has merit. For American citizens who have been conditioned to believe that there are no impediments upon their ability to seek justice if accused of a crime, those accused of drunk driving may state otherwise.