Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Court: State May Not Suspend Driver’s License Over Drunken Boating
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Department of Motor Vehicles may not automatically suspend the driver’s licenses of individuals convicted of boating while intoxicated, this district’s Court of Appeal held yesterday.
Div. Two upheld Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria G. Chaney’s decision enjoining the state from suspending and revoking licenses to operate a motor vehicle based upon an individual’s “boating under the influence” conviction.
Ronnie Cinquegrani and Bryan Royea both have numerous alcohol related driving convictions and a history of having their drivers’ licenses suspended. Both were convicted of operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, in violation of Harbors and Navigation Code Sec. 655, and had their driver’s licenses suspended by the DMV.
Cinquegrani and Royea brought a class action challenging the DMV’s practice. Chaney found that Cinquegrani and Royea were likely to prevail on the merits of their claim because the DMV lacked statutory authority to suspend a driver’s license to punish a BUI conviction and granted relief.
Vehicle Code Sec. 13352(a) mandates that the DMV immediately suspend or revoke an individual’s driver’s license upon receiving a court record showing that an individual had been convicted of driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs in violation of Sec. 23152.
Sec. 23620 provides that a violation of Harbors and Navigation Code Sec. 655 is a “separate violation” of Sec. 23152.
Writing for the appellate court, Presiding Justice Roger W. Boren reasoned that Sec. 23620 only applies to the sentencing of defendants for driving under the influence because boating offenses have their own punishment scheme set forth in the Harbors and Navigation Code, which does not list suspension of driving privileges as a permissible punishment.
Noting that the Legislature has employed the term “separate violation” in all of the statutes increasing the penalties for repeat DUI offenders, Boren concluded the Legislature included the reference to Harbors and Navigation Code Sec. 655 in the Vehicle Code for purposes of enhancing a DUI conviction, not as a separate punishment for a BUI.
Accordingly, Boren ruled, the DMV could not summarily suspend or revoke an individual’s driver’s license based upon a drunken boating offense.
“If the Legislature had intended a conviction of [Harbors and Navigation Code Sec.] 655 be equivalent to a conviction of section 23152, it would have said so in precisely those terms,” he wrote.
Justices Judith M. Ashmann-Gerst and Victoria M. Chavez joined Boren in his opinion.
Attorneys on appeal were Joshua C. Needle and Thomas E. Beck of Schonbrun, Desimone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman for the plaintiffs and Deputy Attorneys General Elizabeth Hong and Jennie M. Kelly for the DMV.
The case is Cinquegrani v. Department of Motor Vehicles, B199859.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company