Judge Upholds Penalties for 'Problem Drivers'

, New York Law Journal

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A judge has upheld regulations introduced by the Cuomo administration last year allowing longer driver's license revocations for people with histories of multiple drinking-and-driving convictions.

Sullivan County Supreme Court Justice Mark Meddaugh (See Profile) held in Gaebel v. New York State Dept. of Motor Vehs., 1333-2013, that the Department of Motor Vehicles did not exceed its authority by imposing more severe penalties for some drivers under 15 NYCRR §§134-136.

The regulations authorize the DMV to review offenders' entire driving records when deciding their license status. "Problem drivers" can have their licenses revoked for extended periods or permanently denied.

Meddaugh concluded in his Nov. 27 ruling from Monticello that state law provides the DMV with authority to introduce longer license suspensions. Under Vehicle and Traffic Law §510(5), the DMV has the discretion to restore a driver's license which has been revoked or suspended, and §510(6) allows the department to refuse to reissue a license after a mandatory minimum revocation.

The new sanctions do not violate constitutional protections against ex post facto laws, Meddaugh ruled. He characterized the extended revocation periods as civil penalties akin to being listed on sex offender registries, which the Court of Appeals has determined to be a civil, not a criminal, sanction.

Kristen Verrino of Poughkeepsie represented Thomas Gaebel, who was fighting a five-year license revocation after a third DWI-related conviction since 1988. Assistant Attorney General Tracy Steeves defended the state.

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