Minnesota Court Finds Minn. Stat. 171.19 Unconstitutional

Posted On October 20, 2015 by Charles Ramsay

A win for individual rights and due process!

(Read the redacted order here.)

Due process of law is the backbone of our legal system. Procedurally, the Constitution guarantees each of us the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard before the government takes away our life, liberty, or property.

A driver's license is a property interest, and Minn. Stat. § 171.19 has finally been found unconstitutional because it authorizes the government to suspend a driver's license without providing the driver with a prompt, meaningful opportunity to be heard.

"Petitioner| (one of our clients) received a notice of license suspension under Minn. Stat. § 171.19. We filed for judicial review. The district court granted our motion, and rescinded the suspension of our client's license because, according to the Court:

[T]he failure of Minn. Stat. § 171.19 to provide Petitioner with prompt meaningful review after a prehearing suspension of his driver's license renders the statute unconstitutional as it violates Petitioner's rights to due process.

With no prompt hearing language, no authority for a court to stay the suspension pending a hearing, and no prompt decision deadline, a driver like Petitioner is left with the government taking away his protected private interest without prompt recourse to seek review. Without these safeguards, Petitioner's private interest in the continued use of his license is not sufficiently protected under the due process of the law[.]

The Commissioner of Public Safety argued that the statute is just fine |given the availability of hardship relief in the form of limited licenses, the Ignition Interlock Program and other remedies, â?¦ combined with the fact that Petitioner received a hearing within 38 days of filing his petition[.]|

The Court didn't buy it, and reminded the Commissioner that

[It is] the statute itself that fails to adequately provide Petitioner with proper procedural due process, and the record demonstrates that Petitioner has suffered prejudice from its failure to guarantee a prompt and meaningful review of his license suspension.

This is a welcome, long-overdue victory for individual rights and due process (and a satisfying outcome for our client).