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Judge: State broke the law
BY ADAM LINHARDT, Citizen Staff
A Monroe County circuit judge has ruled the state motor vehicles department broke the law when it did not grant a drunken driving suspect with a temporary driver’s license pending his trial.
Judge David Audlin this week said the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) “failed to comply with the essential requirements of the law” when it did not provide a Key West man a hardship license to drive to work, school or other necessary tasks after the arresting officer was a no-show at the hearing, court records say.
Key West defense attorney Sam Kaufman argued that denying his client a hearing in which the arresting officer presents the evidence against the suspect violates the defendant’s constitutional right to due process.
Kaufman two months ago filed an emergency motion challenging the policy on behalf of two clients, Louis Licitra of Key West and Jenny Tyler-Marquis of Casselberry, both of whom were arrested in Key West. The ruling means the state must give Licitra a temporary license.
The ruling could have an effect on other DUI cases, as many defense attorneys across the state are challenging the DMV on the issue.
Since July 1, if a law enforcement officer does not attend a defendant’s license hearing, the DMV has told the defendants to take their cases to court instead of automatically granting a hardship permit, as was the previous policy for decades.
Defense attorneys argue the policy is an affront to “basic fairness,” Kaufman said.
“Not everyone who challenges the suspension can afford a lawyer or afford the $400 fee to get this heard in circuit court,” Kaufman said. “It is about fairness. People have the right to hear what evidence the officer has against them.”
The judge wrote that “until the evidence is completed and closed, the [license] suspension may not be lawfully sustained.”
DMV attorney Damaris Reynolds wrote in her response to Kaufman’s original motion that the state is trying to keep drivers safe and that revoking a driver’s license in some cases is a “legitimate legislative goal.”
Defense attorneys hope the DMV will change its policy in light of legal challenges similar to Kaufman’s.
“This is about giving people a proper hearing with an [arresting] officer present,” Kaufman said. “Again, it comes back to basic fairness.”
- Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Violates Basic Constitutional Rights of Florida Residents 09/02/2011