A driver who is arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is likely to be subject to either a license suspension or a license revocation. Courts are generally limited and cannot change or alter a license revocation to limit the impact on the defendant. License revocations are considered civil penalties that are imposed to protect the public rather than a criminal penalty.
Administrative license revocation (ALR) laws allow the police to confiscate the license of any driver who is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving who either refuses to submit to or fails a chemical test for alcohol. The license revocation generally takes place immediately at the time of the arrest. After the license is confiscated, the driver is often given a notice of revocation, which acts as a temporary permit that is valid for a short period during which the driver can appeal the revocation.
Some states call the taking of a license a suspension under administrative license suspension (ALS) laws. Other states call it a revocation under ALR laws. For example, in Georgia the taking of a license is called a suspension, but in Texas the taking is called a revocation. The legal effect of both a suspension and a revocation are very similar.
If a driver does not appeal the suspension, or if the driver’s appeal is unsuccessful, the driver’s license is revoked. The amount of time of the revocation varies by state, but repeat drunk driving offenders may be subjected to longer revocation periods. Many states have attempted to alleviate some of the difficulties incurred in license revocations by granting a conditional or restricted license. A conditional or restricted license allows the offender to drive only under limited circumstances, such as to and from work.
A revocation under an ALR law is not the same as a criminal prosecution. The criminal prosecution is handled separately through the courts. Although many people have challenged this procedure as violating the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the courts have generally concluded that criminal drunk driving prosecutions following license revocations under ALR laws do not violate double jeopardy. The courts based their decisions on the fact that the license revocation is a civil penalty and not a criminal sanction.
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