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COA: Lifetime suspension of driving privileges is not a punishment

February 5, 2014

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a man’s claim that his lifetime suspension of driving privileges is cruel and unusual punishment, upholding the suspension. They held the suspension is not punitive.

Timothy Hazelwood is a habitual traffic violator who has had his license suspended 17 times since 1991. He’s been convicted several times of driving while driving privileges are suspended. He was convicted in 1998 of Class C felony operating a vehicle after his license had been suspended for life and was sentenced to three years in prison.

In 2012, he sought to reinstate his driving privileges and overturn the lifetime suspension. The trial court denied the petition, saying I.C. 9-30-10-14 prevented it from reinstating his license and that the statute was not unconstitutional.

In Timothy Ladana Hazelwood v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1305-MI-239, Hazelwood admits that under I.C. 9-30-10-14 and -15, he cannot have his driving privileges reinstated, but he claimed the statutory prohibition is unconstitutional as applied to him.

He argued that by preventing him from ever having his driver’s license reinstated, the state is effectively continuing to punish him for previous traffic-related offenses. He also claimed the suspension with any possible reinstatement is cruel and unusual punishment.

The Court of Appeals rejected his claims, noting it has previously ruled there is no absolute right to obtain and keep a driver’s license. Whether it is for life or a limited time, the suspension of one’s driving privileges does not constitute punishment, Judge Paul Mathias wrote.

 

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