The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Manzanet-Daniels, determined the revocation of defendant’s driver’s license based upon a 24-year-old default conviction, which involved an error made by the Department of Motor Vehicles in 1994 (misspelling petitioner’s name), was arbitrary and capricious:
Petitioner was issued four summonses in October of 1994 for driving violations including driving without insurance. When entering the violations into the DMV database, a DMV employee entered petitioner’s surname as “Sanders,” rather than “Sonders,” which DMV acknowledges was a “possible data-entry error.” Petitioner claims to the best of his knowledge and memory never to have been issued the summonses in question. A default judgment was entered against petitioner as a result of his failure to contest the tickets. The conviction for driving without insurance carried a mandatory penalty of a one-year license revocation (see Vehicle and Traffic Law § 318[a]-[b]). On or about August 6, 2019, petitioner renewed his New York State driver’s license in person at the DMV. At that time, he obtained a copy of his driving record abstract, which indicated that his license status was “valid.”
Thereafter, petitioner received suspension notices, dated August 7, 2019, stating that his license had been suspended on February 3, 1995; and a revocation order dated August 7, 2019 stating that owing to the February 3, 1995 conviction his license would be revoked for one year in accordance with section 318 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Petitioner claims that this is the first notice he received of the summonses.
Petitioner paid the outstanding fines and in September 2019 commenced an article 78 proceeding challenging the license revocation. Supreme Court denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding. This appeal followed. …
“A license to operate an automobile is of tremendous value to the individual and may not be taken away except by due process.”
No such due process was afforded to petitioner, who never received notice of the conviction and was led to believe for over 20 years that his license was in order. Matter of Sonders v New York State Dept. of Motor Vehs. Traffic Violations Bur., 2020 NY Slip Op 04443, First Dept 8-6-20