A recent Minnesota Court of Appeals case found that drivers in the state have no right to a seven-day notice in cases where their licenses will be suspended. The ruling in Christopher John Williams v. Commission of Public Safety stated that a lower court was wrong to reinstate the licenses of three people who claimed they never received proper notice before having their driving privileges revoked.
The case involved claims by three separate drivers, all nearly identical. Each had been arrested on suspicion of DWI and each had voluntarily submitted to a blood test. Testing of their samples later revealed that each had been driving while intoxicated. As a result, each defendant was mailed a letter by the Commission of Public Safety explaining that their driver’s licenses would be revoked ten days after the letter was marked as sent. Given the way the office processes its mail, this meant that the revocation would become effective nine days after the letters had been postmarked.
Given this one-day delay in postmarking the letters, and assuming a typical three-day mailing time, the defendants only had six days’ notice before their license revocations were to become effective. The defendants argued in district court that this violated their procedural due process rights because the lag time in postmarking the letters meant that they would not receive the full seven days of temporary driving privileges that other drivers receive. Specifically, those who refuse to submit to such a test have their license revoked on the spot and are given notice of the revocation and a seven-day temporary license immediately by the arresting officer.
The district court judge who heard the case agreed that the slightly delayed notice violated the defendant’s procedural due process rights and decided to rescind the revocations. The Commissioner of Public Safety then appealed the ruling to the Minnesota Court of Appeals which was left to decide whether the difference of one day represented a violation of the defendant’s procedural due process rights.
The Court of Appeals found that it is true that those drivers who refuse to submit to a chemical test or those who are tested and are immediately found to be intoxicated are subject to immediate revocation and thus receive a seven-day temporary license. While these groups do receive an extra day’s notice, the Court held that there is no statutory requirement that the state provide seven days’ notice to those whose licenses are revoked by mail.
The Court of Appeals also stated that it was not the case that defendants were subject to immediate or unfairly shortened license revocation. Instead, the Court said the three defendants in this case waited weeks or months before receiving their license revocation by mail as their results were tested and analyzed, allowing more than enough time to anticipate the revocation.
The Court ultimately concluded that the defendants were not legally owed seven days’ notice before their licenses could be revoked. Though others were given an extra day to prepare for the revocation, the Court decided this did not amount to a violation of their procedural due process rights. However, the Court did say that the question of how much, if any, notice is required prior to a license revocation remains to be decided. The opinion concluded by inviting the Minnesota Supreme Court to hear the issue and lay down a blanket rule for how much notice is required.