Criminal Law Blog

Attention traffic court lawyers: The DCCA offers a primer on the notice requirements for suspending a license

Osborne v. District of Columbia (decided September 21, 2017).

Players: Associate Judges Fisher and Thompson, Senior Judge Steadman.  Nigel A. Barrella for Mr. Osborne.  Trial judge: Magistrate Judge Frederick Sullivan.  Reviewing judge: Associate Judge John Ramsey Johnson.

Facts: Mr. Osborne was convicted of driving while intoxicated in Virginia.  When he was subsequently stopped by a police officer in the District for a traffic violation, a records check revealed that Mr. Osborne's license had been revoked.  At his bench trial for "operating after suspension,” Mr. Osborne argued that he had not received notice that his license had been revoked in the District and therefore could not be held criminally liable for this offense.

Issue #1: Whether the District is required to send notice when a driver’s license is revoked.

Holding: Yes.  Even when the revocation is mandatory, such as when the driver has been convicted of driving under the influence in another state (as was the case here), the driver is entitled to written notice.

Issue #2: Whether a hearing is required before revocation of a driving license.

Holding: No.  District regulations specify that no hearing is required when revocation is mandatory.  In addition, the District is entitled to “adopt for purposes of its own compliance with due process, the judgment of a court from another state, rather than hold a new hearing.”  Slip op. at 21-22 (quoting Wall v. Babers, 82 A.3d 802 (D.C. 2014)) (ellipses omitted). 

Issue #3: What proof is required that the District provided the driver with sufficient notice of the revocation?

Holding: When the defendant claims she did not receive notice of revocation, and the evidence at trial “fairly raises the issue,” the District bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that sufficient notice was given.

Of note:

  • The decision includes a thorough explanation of the District’s process for revoking a license based on a driver’s out-of-state conviction.  Slip op. at 13-17.
  • Here, Mr. Osborne “fairly raised the issue” of whether he received notice by testifying that (1) he did not know about the revocation until he was arrested;  (2) when he called the D.C. DMV in May 2013, an employee told him there was nothing wrong with his license; (3) a police officer pulled him over in June 2013 and told him there was “nothing wrong” with his license; and (4) he received nothing in the mail about his license being revoked.  Mr. Osborne’s mother also testified that she called the DMV repeatedly on Mr. Osborne’s behalf and was told that there was no problem with the license.  NG

Read full opinion here.