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Grant of judicial review following license suspension reversed

February 26, 2015

Because an Indiana driver did not take advantage of an available statutory method for challenging the suspension of her license before filing a petition for judicial review, the Court of Appeals reversed the grant of judicial review that ruled in her favor.

Jennifer Gurtner struck a deer while driving and she reported the damage to the police. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles contacted her and needed proof of automobile insurance on the car at the time of the accident. Gurtner believed the car had coverage, but because of a mistake on the part of the insurance agent, the car involved in the accident was not covered.

The BMV then told her the driver’s license would be suspended pursuant to I.C. 9-25-6-3 for not providing the insurance coverage information. Gurtner then filed a verified petition for judicial review, which the trial court granted. The judge found the BMV does not allow drivers an administrative hearing to dispute or explain problems with complying with proof of financial responsibility and then ordered the BMV to not suspend her license and immediately reinstate her full driving privileges.

But this was an error, the COA held in Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles v. Jennifer M. Gurtner, 50A03-1407-MI-256. It does not appear that the BMV would have been statutorily authorized to disregard the clear language of the statute requiring her license suspension, even if the BMV provided Gurtner with the opportunity to request a hearing to present her evidence, Judge Paul Mathias wrote.

“Here, the BMV suspended Gurtner’s license before the petition for judicial review could be heard. However, Gurtner failed to request any stay of the suspension of her license. Perhaps more importantly, neither did she request a ‘hardship’ license. At the time Gurtner’s suspension was pending, Indiana Code section 9-24-15-1(1) provided that a trial court could grant a hardship license to an individual who failed to provide proof of financial responsibility after receiving a request for such proof following an accident ‘if the individual shows by a preponderance of the evidence that the failure to maintain financial responsibility was inadvertent.’

“Had Gurtner availed herself of this provision, she could have demonstrated that her failure to maintain her financial responsibility was inadvertent and thereby have been able to maintain some, or all, of her driving privileges. In other words, a statutory method was available for Gurtner to present her claim – via a request for a hardship license. Yet Gurtner failed to avail herself of this available statutory method. Under these facts and circumstances, we cannot say that Gurtner was denied procedural due process.”

 

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