Following a DUI arrest in Florida, the officer will confiscate the driver's license of the suspect. From there, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles automatically suspends driving privileges.
Two Orlando attorneys filed a lawsuit in Orlando federal court, naming the department and executive director Terry L. Rhodes. On behalf of Alfredo Crespin, arrested for DUI this past November, attorneys David Oliver and Stuart Hyman are accusing the state of violating the constitutional rights of Crespin, specifically the 14th Amendment.
The lawsuit challenges the treatment of drunk drivers by police, specifically the automatic suspension of driving privileges without probable cause or a judicial review. The lawyers are proposing a state magistrate or judicially appointed hearing officer conduct a probable cause hearing.
Pending a judge granting class action status, the court case could be valued at $50 million and cover approximately 240,000 Floridians over the past four years.
Peer attorneys in support of the litigation claim that police act as if the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is a separate entity. The agency does not have to answer to the court. They allege that challenges to suspensions before a hearing officer -an unqualified and biased department employee according to the suit - equate to a "kangaroo court." Rulings in favor of the officer are at 95%.
Even a finding of not guilty to drunk driving will not restore driving privileges. Licenses are still lost for an entire year. Temporary "business purpose" or "employment purpose" licenses are an option, but have restrictions.
Regardless of when a ruling will come, Florida residents arrested for drunk driving and facing the loss of their drivers' licenses need legal representation to protect their rights.