Indefinite Driver’s License Revocations for DWI Convictions

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What is the basis for the indefinite license revocation reflected in the driving record entry below?

A. A revocation under G.S. 20-24.1 for failure to appear for a motor vehicle offense.

B. A revocation under G.S. 20-24.1 for failure to pay a fine, penalty or court costs ordered by the court upon conviction of a motor vehicle offense.

C. A one-year revocation under G.S. 20-17(a)(2) for conviction of DWI that is extended by G.S. 20-17.6(b).

D. It is not possible, without additional information, to determine the reason for the revocation.

The answer?           

This entry reflects a driver’s license revocation entered pursuant to G.S. 20-17(a)(2) for conviction of impaired driving. The person committed the offense on June 25, 2010 and was convicted on October 25, 2010. Her license was revoked for one year. G.S. 20-19 (c1). (Had the record been printed before October 25, 2011, the “INDEF” entry would have contained the date 10-25-11.) The asterisk beside the conviction indicates that DMV has not yet received the certificate of completion reflecting that the person completed his or her substance abuse assessment or treatment. Thus, when the one-year revocation period expired, the revocation did not end, as it otherwise would have, but instead continued pursuant to the provisions of G.S. 20-17.6(b). So, answer C is correct.

How can I be sure?

There are several ways in which a person’s license may be indefinitely suspended in connection with impaired driving charges. A person may have his license revoked for a civil license revocation under G.S. 20-16.5. Unlike the driving record entry above, these revocations contain the entry “SUSP: 30 DAY CIVIL REVOCATION (SUSPENSION).” A person’s driver’s license may be revoked for her failure to appear or failure to pay a fine, penalty or court costs. G.S. 20-24.1. Entries for those revocations state “SUSP: FAILURE TO APPEAR,” or “SUSP: FAILURE TO PAY FINE.” The entry above, in contrast, reflects that the revocation is for conviction of impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1.

Driver’s license revocations for convictions of impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1 never begin as indefinite revocations. Instead they are for a term of years or are permanent. The revocation period is four years if the person is convicted of impaired driving and has a previous conviction for an offense involving impaired driving that occurred within three years before the offense for which the person’s license is being revoked. G.S. 20-19(d). Thus, if the person whose driving record is depicted above previously had been convicted of impaired driving for an offense that occurred on June 26, 2007, the revocation period would have been four years.

The revocation period is permanent for a person convicted of impaired driving who previously has been convicted of two or more offenses involving impaired driving, with the most recent of those offenses occurring within five years before the date of the offense for which the person’s license is being revoked. G.S. 20-19(e). No conviction more than ten years old may be considered (unless the offense occurred in a commercial motor vehicle or was committed by the holder of a commercial driver’s license). G.S. 20-36. All other revocations for conviction of impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1 are for one year. G.S. 20-19(c1). The “1” beside “OFFENSE OF DRIVING WHILE IMPAIRED” indicates that DMV considers this a first conviction for revocation purposes.

In order for a person whose license is revoked for impaired driving to have his license restored after the period of revocation ends, DMV must receive a certificate of completion. G.S. 20-17.6(b). To obtain a certificate of completion, the person must have a substance abuse assessment and, depending on the results of the assessment, complete either an alcohol or drug education school (ADET) or a substance abuse treatment program. G.S. 20-17.6(c). Moreover, the revocation period for a person whose license is revoked for a conviction of driving while impaired in violation of G.S. 20-138.1 is extended until DMV receives the certificate of completion. G.S. 20-17.6(b).

Who cares?

A person convicted of driving while impaired based on an offense that occurred while his or her license was revoked for an impaired driving revocation may have her sentence enhanced by the grossly aggravating factor in G.S. 20-179(c)(2). This factor applies if, in committing the instant impaired driving offense, the person drove a motor vehicle on a highway while her license was revoked and the revocation was an impaired driving revocation as that term is defined in G.S. 20-28.2(a). Revocations under G.S. 20-17(a)(2) are included among impaired driving revocations. That same rule applies when those revocations are extended pursuant to G.S. 20-17.6. See State v. Coffey, 189 N.C. App. 382, 386 (2008) (concluding in an impaired driving case in which the defendant’s earlier conviction-based impaired driving revocation was extended under G.S. 20-17.6 that “there was overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence that at the time of the offense, defendant was driving while his license was revoked and that such revocation was an impaired driving revocation”). So, if the person whose driving record is set forth above drives a motor vehicle while impaired on a highway on August 11, 2013 and is convicted under G.S. 20-138.1 she will be sentenced, at a minimum, to Level One punishment.  Two grossly aggravating factors apply.  She has a prior conviction for an offense involving impaired driving within seven years (G.S. 20-179(c)(1)), and she drove a motor vehicle while impaired on a highway while subject to an impaired driving revocation (G.S. 20-179(c)(2)).

2 comments on “Indefinite Driver’s License Revocations for DWI Convictions

  1. I’d add a caveat to those stipulations, mainly if there were outstanding chargers prior to the updated suspension regime, the older rules apply.

    For example if a defendant was charged with 2 DWI’s in say 1998, but was convicted in 2010 for the actual offenses, the old scheme then applies.

  2. What if the record contains the indef suspension described above for say, a 2002 DWI conviction that lacks the assessment, and the defendant is charged again in 2013 BUT the defendant’s record shows a 2001 indef suspension for a more innocent failure to pay fine in a minor speeding ticket?

    Can you argue that the earliest reason of revocation controls and that it is NOT an impaired driving revocation? After all, the defendant would have still been suspended had he complied with the assessment or, as is surprisingly common, he did comply, but the provider neglected to forward it to the DMV.

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