Wednesday, June 14, 2006
DMV May Impose Longer License Suspension Than That Ordered By Trial Court, Fourth District Court of Appeal Panel Rules
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Legislature has not unconstitutionally intruded on the power of a trial court to order a less-stringent criminal sentence by mandating that the DMV impose a two-year administrative license suspension for certain drunk drivers, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The panel affirmed an order by San Diego Superior Court Judge Francis M. Devaney denying John Greenwood Brierton’s petition for a writ of mandate.
Brierton was prosecuted for two alcohol-related driving incidents and pled guilty to alcohol-related reckless driving in one case and driving with an excessive blood-alcohol level in the other, the pleas being entered at the same time. As part of his sentence, the court ordered a one-year suspension of his driver’s license on the “wet reckless” count and a 90-day license suspension on the blood-alcohol charge.
Brierton’s convictions prompted the DMV in April 2005 to administratively suspend his driving privileges for two years pursuant to Vehicle Code Sec. 13352(a)(3), which requires an automatic two-year suspension for any person who receives two alcohol-related driving convictions within 10 years.
Brierton filed a petition for a writ of mandate in the San Diego Superior Court challenging the DMV’s administrative suspension order on the ground that the Legislature had “usurped” the trial court’s power to impose its sentence, in violation of the constitutional separation of powers doctrine.
Writing for the court, Justice Cynthia Aaron of Div. One said:
“[T]he fact that a criminal conviction may invoke collateral consequences does not mean that the administrator of those collateral consequences has in any way defeated or materially impaired the function of the court.”
The DMV sanction was “substantively distinct” from the court-ordered sentence Brierton received, the justice said, and courts have recognized the difference between the DMV’s power to impose an administrative suspension and the trial court’s power to impose a penal sanction.
Therefore, she explained, the Legislature did not violate the separation of powers doctrine.
Aaron concluded that Brierton’s suggestion that the DMV’s mandatory suspension intruded on the trial court’s ability to resolve the criminal charges against him “is simply incorrect.”
The case is Brierton v. Department of Motor Vehicles, DO47088.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company