City of Redmond v. Moore

Decision Date03 June 2004
Docket NumberNo. 72614-1.,72614-1.
Citation151 Wash.2d 664,91 P.3d 875
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesCITY OF REDMOND, Appellant, v. Dean A. MOORE, Respondent. City of Redmond, Appellant, v. Jason D. Wilson, Respondent.

Richard Mitchell, Redmond, for Appellant.

Cherilyn Church, Donna Kay Tucker, Bellevue, for Respondent.

Sharon Sullivan Eckholm, Wash. Atty. General/Lic. & Emp., Olympia, for Amicus Curiae (Dept. of Licensing).

SANDERS, J.

This case consolidates direct review of two separate district court orders dismissing charges against Dean Moore and Jason Wilson for driving while license suspended. In both cases the district court concluded mandatory suspension of their licenses pursuant to RCW 46.20.289 violated procedural due process because Moore and Wilson were not afforded an administrative hearing by the Department of Licensing (DOL) before or after the effective date of the suspensions. By implication the district court's orders also invalidated RCW 46.20.324(1), which provides that a person shall not be entitled to an administrative hearing when the license suspension or revocation is mandatory. We affirm the district court and hold RCW 46.20.289 and .324(1) violate due process.

FACTS

DOL issued Wilson an "Order of Suspension" on December 23, 1998, effective January 22, 1999, for failure to appear, pay, or comply with a traffic infraction notice for speeding. The order provided:

TO AVOID SUSPENSION, YOU MUST RESOLVE ALL CHARGES ON THIS CITATION WITH THE COURT INDICATED BELOW AND THE DEPARTMENT MUST RECEIVE PROOF FROM THE COURT BEFORE 01-22-1999 THAT THE CHARGE(S) HAVE BEEN RESOLVED. QUESTIONS REGARDING THE CITATION AND/OR FINE SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO THE COURT LISTED BELOW.

Clerk's Papers (CP) at 68. The City of Redmond (City) Police Department cited Wilson on March 18, 1999, for driving while license suspended.

On November 17, 1999, DOL issued Moore an order of suspension for failure to appear, pay, or comply with a traffic infraction notice for driving without liability insurance, effective December 17, 1999. His order contained the same language cited above. Moore was cited on May 3, 2001, for driving while license suspended.

The City charged both Wilson and Moore with driving while license suspended in violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(c). Although Moore and Wilson filed separate motions to dismiss the charges, they appeared before the same district court, were represented by the same counsel, and raised identical arguments. The district court held a hearing on April 9, 2002, to consider both motions. Concluding the suspensions did not comply with due process because DOL failed to provide an opportunity for an administrative hearing either before or after the effective date of the suspensions, the court dismissed the charges.

The City sought and received this court's direct review of the consolidated cases.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review issues regarding statutory construction de novo. State v. J.M., 144 Wash.2d 472, 480, 28 P.3d 720 (2001). Constitutional challenges are questions of law and are also reviewed de novo. Weden v. San Juan County, 135 Wash.2d 678, 693, 958 P.2d 273 (1998).

ANALYSIS

DOL suspended both Moore and Wilson's driver's licenses pursuant to RCW 46.20.289. That statute provides in relevant part:

The department shall suspend all driving privileges of a person when the department receives notice from a court ... that the person has failed to respond to a notice of traffic infraction, failed to appear at a requested hearing, violated a written promise to appear in court, or has failed to comply with the terms of a notice of traffic infraction or citation, other than for a standing, stopping, or parking violation. A suspension under this section takes effect thirty days after the date the department mails notice of the suspension, and remains in effect until the department has received a certificate from the court showing that the case has been adjudicated.

Additionally RCW 46.20.324(1) provides:

A person shall not be entitled to a driver improvement interview or formal hearing as hereinafter provided:
(1) When the action by the department is made mandatory by the provisions of this chapter or other law.

As a threshold matter we must first determine whether Moore and Wilson present a facial or an as-applied challenge to the constitutionality of RCW 46.20.289 and.324(1). An as-applied challenge to the constitutional validity of a statute is characterized by a party's allegation that application of the statute in the specific context of the party's actions or intended actions is unconstitutional. Wash. State Republican Party v. Wash. State Pub. Disclosure Comm'n, 141 Wash.2d 245, 282 n. 14, 4 P.3d 808 (2000). Holding a statute unconstitutional as-applied prohibits future application of the statute in a similar context, but the statute is not totally invalidated. Id. In contrast, a successful facial challenge is one where no set of circumstances exists in which the statute, as currently written, can be constitutionally applied. Id. (citing In re Det. of Turay, 139 Wash.2d 379, 417 n. 27, 986 P.2d 790 (1999)). The remedy for holding a statute facially unconstitutional is to render the statute totally inoperative. Turay, 139 Wash.2d at 417 n. 27, 986 P.2d 790.

Here Moore and Wilson contend that mandatory suspension of a driver's license, pursuant to RCW 46.20.289, without granting an administrative hearing violates due process. They argue due process requires DOL provide the opportunity for an administrative hearing to resolve potential ministerial errors in the record, such as misidentification, miscalculation of the fine, or errors in the conviction form. They also do not challenge the factual basis for their suspensions.1 The essence of their argument is that RCW 46.20.289 violates due process because it fails to afford any driver facing a suspension of his or her license under that statute an opportunity for an administrative hearing with DOL prior to or after such suspension. Accordingly, Moore and Wilson challenge the constitutionality of RCW 46.20.289, and by extension, .324(1).

It is well settled that driver's licenses may not be suspended or revoked "`without that procedural due process required by the Fourteenth Amendment.'" Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105, 112, 97 S.Ct. 1723, 52 L.Ed.2d 172 (1977) (quoting Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 539, 91 S.Ct. 1586, 29 L.Ed.2d 90 (1971)); City of Redmond v. Arroyo-Murillo, 149 Wash.2d 607, 612, 70 P.3d 947 (2003). An important corollary to this rule is that a driver cannot be convicted of driving while his or her license is suspended or revoked if the suspension or revocation violates due process. State v. Dolson, 138 Wash.2d 773, 783, 982 P.2d 100 (1999). Though the procedures may vary according to the interest at stake, "[t]he fundamental requirement of due process is the opportunity to be heard `at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.'" Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976) (quoting Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545, 552, 85 S.Ct. 1187, 14 L.Ed.2d 62 (1965)).

To determine whether existing procedures are adequate to protect the interest at stake, a court must consider the following three factors:

First, the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally, the Governments interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail.

Mathews, 424 U.S. at 335, 96 S.Ct. 893, cited in Tellevik v. Real Property, 120 Wash.2d 68, 78, 838 P.2d 111 (1992).

The first Mathews factor requires identification of the nature and weight of the private interest affected by the official action challenged. The private interest in this case is the driver's interest in the continued use and possession of a driver's license. Depriving a person of the use of his or her vehicle can significantly impact that person's ability to earn a living. See Bell, 402 U.S. at 539, 91 S.Ct. 1586. Moreover the State "will not be able to make a driver whole for any personal inconvenience and economic hardship suffered by reason of any delay in redressing an erroneous suspension through postsuspension review procedures." Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 11, 99 S.Ct. 2612, 61 L.Ed.2d 321 (1979). As such, the United States Supreme Court has made clear that a driver's interest in his or her driving privileges "is a substantial one." Id.; Dolson, 138 Wash.2d at 776-77, 982 P.2d 100 (recognizing "[a] driver's license represents an important property interest").

Additionally "[t]he duration of any potentially wrongful deprivation of a property interest is an important factor in assessing the impact of official action on the private interest involved." Mackey, 443 U.S. at 12, 99 S.Ct. 2612. Under RCW 46.20.289 a person whose license has been erroneously ordered suspended receives notice that his or her license will be suspended 30 days from the date of the notice. He or she is not, however, offered any procedure to contest the suspension other than being instructed by the notice to resolve the matter with the court. The public is left to its own devices to secure a timely hearing from a court to reverse the error before the suspension takes effect. The statute, however, provides no guaranty such a hearing will take place promptly. See RCW 46.20.289. Once a suspension takes effect, it remains in effect until the driver can resolve the matter with the court. Id. Thus the duration of an erroneous suspension under RCW 46.20.289 is dependent on the time it takes to get a court to reverse the error.

The second Mathews factor is the risk of erroneous deprivation of the...

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