626 A.2d 1286 (R.I. 1993), 92-364, Levesque v. Rhode Island Dept. of Transp.

Docket Nº:92-364-M.P.
Citation:626 A.2d 1286
Opinion Judge:SHEA, Justice.
Party Name:George M. LEVESQUE, Jr. v. RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.
Attorney:Kenneth R. Tremblay, Portsmouth, for plaintiff. Jeffrey Pine, Atty. Gen., John E. Sullivan, III, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendant.
Judge Panel:LEDERBERG, J., did not participate.
Case Date:June 29, 1993
Court:Supreme Court of Rhode Island
 
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Page 1286

626 A.2d 1286 (R.I. 1993)

George M. LEVESQUE, Jr.

v.

RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

No. 92-364-M.P.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island.

June 29, 1993.

Page 1287

Kenneth R. Tremblay, Portsmouth, for plaintiff.

Jeffrey Pine, Atty. Gen., John E. Sullivan, III, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendant.

OPINION

SHEA, Justice.

This case is before the court on the Rhode Island Department of Transportation's

Page 1288

petition for certiorari to review an order of the District Court in which the judge had vacated the finding of violation by the Administrative Adjudication Division.

On August 10, 1991, George M. Levesque, Jr. (Levesque), was arrested and charged by the Portsmouth police with refusal to submit to a chemical test upon the suspicion of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. 1 The police informed him of his rights as they are enumerated in the Rights for Use at Station form that had been designed through a combined effort of the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Attorney General's office and which was distributed to all local police departments. This form outlines an individual's rights upon being stopped for drunk driving. The form contained the following warning:

"You do not have to submit to a chemical test at my request. If you refuse, none shall be given. However, a report will then be sent to an Administrative Law Judge of the Administrative Adjudication Division. Your driver's license will be immediately suspended and after hearing the following mandatory sanctions will be imposed if the charge is sustained: * * * (5) Violators will be required to maintain proof of financial responsibility for three (3) years." (Emphasis added.)

Despite this warning the driver persisted in his refusal to submit to the breathalyzer test.

After this incident Levesque received an order, dated August 26, 1991, from the DOT Administrative Adjudication Division (AAD) that called for suspension of his driver's license effective August 30, 1991. Attached to this order was a document entitled "Important Message" that notified him that all Rhode Island automobile registrations in his name were also suspended as of the effective date of his license suspension. The notice stated that he was required to surrender all license plates and that this suspension would be effective until such time as he filed proof of financial responsibility for the future.

The case was heard before an AAD judge on March 31, 1992, and the judge sustained the violation and imposed the minimum sanctions. Thereafter, Levesque appealed to the AAD appeals board, claiming that he had not received adequate notice of the possible penalties for refusing the test. His appeal was denied. Finally Levesque appealed to the Rhode Island District Court. After a hearing, the District Court judge reversed the appeals board decision and dismissed the violation against Levesque, finding that the suspension of a driver's registration is a penalty about which the driver must be informed pursuant to G.L.1956 (1982 Reenactment) § 31-27-2.1, as amended by P.L.1990, ch. 329, § 1, prior to his refusal to submit to a chemical test. The DOT then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which we granted.

Section 31-27-2.1 requires motor-vehicle operators who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs to submit to breath, blood, or urine analysis. This statute makes...

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