Indiana appeals court: BMV can strip California man’s driver’s license

A man whose driving privileges were revoked after he moved from Indiana to California had them restored by an Indianapolis trial court, but the Bureau of Motor Vehicles won a reversal of that decision Wednesday.

Thomas Douglass lived in Marion County when he was issued an Indiana driver’s license in May 2014, but one month later, he moved to California, where he surrendered his Indiana license and obtained a California license. In August that same year, the BMV sent a letter to Douglass’ last know address, notifying him that his driving privileges were being suspended for 10 years because he’d had three qualifying driving-related convictions in the prior 10 years and was therefore deemed a habitual traffic offender.

It wasn’t until January 2018 that the California Division of Motor Vehicles notified Douglass of the decision, and that his license would be cancelled in 30 days. Douglass hired an attorney who sought administrative review with the Indiana BMV, and when that failed, and when that failed, he sought judicial review.

Marion Circuit Court granted Douglass an injunction and ultimately reinstated his driving privileges and ordered BMV to vacate its habitual traffic violator determination against him. The trial court found the BMV’s findings and suspension unsupported by credible evidence, arbitrary and capricious.

But the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles v. Thomas Douglass, 19A-MI-216, holding that the BMV was within its rights under the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, and that Douglass’ privileges were properly suspended.

“We agree with BMV’s assertion that it had the right to pursue a suspension of Douglass’ driving privileges even though he was a no longer a resident of Indiana,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the panel. “We therefore reverse the trial court’s order canceling Douglass’ HTV determination and the reinstatement of Douglass’ driving privileges in Indiana. Our conclusion harmonizes with the

legislative mandate of Indiana Code section 9-30-10-4 which authorizes BMV to determine that a person is an HTV and proceed in suspending a person’s driving privileges in light of qualifying judgments.  Moreover, nothing under the Interstate Driver’s License Compact requires party states, such as Indiana, from enforcing its laws against a nonresident regardless of whether they have a valid license issued by their home-state.”

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