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Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Delay in Notification of Suspension

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PADOT's delay in notification of a license suspension can excuse the suspension where undue prejudice is shown.

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By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, License Suspension Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

In Gringrich v. Department of Transportation, ___ A.3d ___ (March 30, 2016), the Commonwealth Court held that a 10 year delay in notification of a defendant of a license suspension, "there may be limited extraordinary circumstances in which the suspension loses its public protection rationale and simply becomes an additional punitive measure resulting from the conviction, but imposed long after the fact."  There, the defendant had been convicted in 2004 of a DYI and was not notified by the Department of her suspension of one year until October 2014.  While the Court acknowledges that it's generally not PADOT's fault when a clerk's office fails to send in the notice of suspension within 10 days, it can nevertheless look at equitable concerns.

The test for determining a license suspension based upon delay turns on two key factors: 1) that there was an unreasonable delay that was attributable to PennDot; and 2) that the delay caused one to believe that their operating privileges would not be impaired and that they relied on this belief to their detriment.

The Court noted that only an unreasonable delay by PennDot and not the court, invalidates a license suspension.  However, there are limited extraordinary circumstances as here where there were no subsequent violations, the defendant had received a bachelor's degree, had a five year old child, and needed to drive for her employment.  The Court refused to establish a bright line on the time of the delay.  I closing, the Court noted "the extraordinary delay in reporting [Defendant's] 2004 conviction that resulted in a gap of ten years between her conviction and suspension, combine with her lack of additional issues since her last conviction in 2006 and her showing of prejudice, has created a circumstance where the 2004 suspension has lost the underlying public safety purpose and now simply is a punitive measure sought to be imposed too long after the fact."

A Similar Result in Lycoming County

In Orwig v. Department of Transportation, 286 CD 2015 (April 28, 2015), the court of common pleas held that 13 year delay in notification was prejudicial. However, the court there determined that the delay was attributable to the Department where it was well aware of the breakdown in the system [clerk's office].

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