Victory for Juvenile DUI Offenders

On February 8, 2013, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled against PennDOT and for a juvenile adjudicated dependent for a DUI by holding PennDOT was wrong to suspend the juvenile’s driver’s license. The Commonwealth Court, in Clark v. Dep’t of Transp., (Pa. Commw. Feb. 8, 2013), denied PennDot’s appeal and affirmed the Bedford County Trial Court’s decision that sustained the juvenile’s appeal from a one-year suspension of his operating privileges following a juvenile adjudication for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

The juvenile, who represented himself, argued the exemption from license suspension for first time DUI offenders convicted of a first offense “general impairment” DUI set forth in 75 Pa.C.S. §3804 (e)(2)(iii) should also apply to juveniles. PennDOT argued that because the juvenile was treated under the Juvenile Act and as such was adjudicated dependent for DUI rather than convicted and sentenced for DUI, the exception to the license suspension should not apply to him and as such his driver’s license should be suspended – even though the driver’s license of an adult in the same situation would not have been suspended.

The Bedford County Trial Court and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court disagreed with PennDOT. The Court reasoned the juvenile was subjected to all the penalties that an adult would have been subjected to upon conviction and sentence of an ungraded Misdemeanor DUI. The Court used a “plain language” interpretation of the statute which states the exception to suspension requires only that the offender be “subject to” subsection (a) penalties for general impairment; and, the juvenile in this case actually was subjected to the penalties set forth in 75 Pa.C.S. §3804 (a)(1) for a first offense general impairment DUI.

Unless this decision is appealed, the law has now been clarified so that first time juvenile offenders who have incurred all the penalties associated with a first time “general impairment” DUI will not have their driver’s license suspended as well.

I urge any juvenile offender who has incurred all the penalties for a first offense general impairment DUI and who has had his driver’s license suspended call me now to discuss how to obtain an immediate restoration of his or her driver’s license. Call me at (717) 775-7195.

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