Administrative suspension of a driver’s license does not bar subsequent prosecution for drunken driving, the Idaho Supreme Court says.
The court on Friday unanimously rejected the argument in a Rigby case that once the state suspended the license of Juan Talavera after he was charged with drunken driving, it couldn’t later prosecute him on the driving charge.
That would be double jeopardy, or punishing him twice for the same offense, the appeal claimed.
The court’s decision impacts eight other cases, all pending because of appeals on the same ground.
Justice Gerald Schroeder wrote that the purpose of the administrative license suspension, once a person is charged with drunken driving, is the protection of society and not punishment of the accused.
The Double Jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars multiple punishments for the same offense.
The court ruled that taking a driver’s license for 90 days is remedial, not punishment or a deterrent. The purpose of the statute is to protect other drivers by quickly revoking the driving privileges of those persons “who have shown themselves to be safety hazards” by driving with illegal levels of alcohol in their system.
Therefore, a 90-day administrative license suspension is not punishment for double jeopardy purposes, and Talavera can be prosecuted for driving under the influence in addition to the administrative license suspension.
Talavera also appealed under a state law, Section 18-301 of the Idaho Code, which forbids double jeopardy.
But the court noted that the administrative license suspension law was passed later and specifically allows an administrative license suspension and suspension imposed as punishment for driving under the influence.
Talavera’s case was put on hold while the Supreme Court expedited a decision on his appeal. The case was sent back for disposition of the drunken-driving charge.
In another decision released Friday, the Supreme Court overruled 5th District Judge Daniel Hurlbutt and dismissed legal action filed by two canal companies against rules adopted by the state Department of Water Resources.
The Twin Falls Canal Co. and North Side Canal Co. filed action in Hurlbutt’s court seeking to void administrative rules concerning conjunctive management of ground water and surface water rights for the state.
Hurlbutt denied the department’s motion to dismiss, but he was overturned by the Supreme Court. The court said last year, the Legislature amended rules for the Snake River Water Rights adjudication in Hurlbutt’s court, and specifically removed the Department of Water Resources as a party.
Since the department now is not a part of the adjudication, it may not be sued in Hurlbutt’s court over water issues, the Supreme Court said.
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