Whatever Happened to the Class Action DUI Lawsuit in Florida?
Here in the Sunshine State, if you’re suspected of driving while under the influence, your driver’s license will be taken from you immediately upon arrest. It doesn't matter whether you consent to a breathalyzer or refused one, your license is history—at least temporarily. This is done on the spot by the arresting officer, regardless of the potential conviction to come and without any judicial involvement.
While this lack of due process may seem to go against the very foundation of our legal system, the thought is that “driving is a privilege, not a right.” If it’s not a right, then traditional due process does not apply.
You may remember that back in 2016, a class action lawsuit against the state of Florida challenged this notion. But whatever happened to it?
History of the Florida DUI Class Action Lawsuit
The suit was filed in Orlando federal court by attorneys David Oliver and Stuart Hyman, on behalf of Alfredo Crespin, a 58-year old Winter Garden man who was arrested for drunk driving. The suit names the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles along with its executive director, Terry L. Rhodes, asserting that taking a license from someone prior to the judicial process violates their constitutional rights.
The ultimate goal of the suit, Crespin, et al v. Rhodes, was to have a judge grant it class action status; it cited the expense suspected DUI drivers generally pay in order to secure temporary driving privileges related to employment while awaiting their day in court. Because it is estimated that 60,000 people are arrested for DUI each year in Florida, the suit covered 4 years’ worth of arrests, or about 240,000 people.
The biggest obstacle the suit faced was garnering sympathy; it’s safe to say that no one supports drunk driving. After all, alcohol-related accidents have the highest fatality rates in the country; every day, 45 people die due to alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. However, the suit argued that suspected and actual offenders of Florida's DUI laws are entitled to the same constitutional protections of every Florida citizen.
Referenced numerous times throughout the suit was the 14th Amendment, which states:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
What Happened to Crespin, et al v. Rhodes?
Ultimately, the case was dismissed by United States District Judge Gregory A. Presnell on November 22, 2016 for lack of standing. Relying on cases such as the City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, the Court found that the Plaintiffs “failed to allege facts that make it appear substantially likely that they will suffer injury in the future as a result of the DMV’s allegedly unconstitutional license-deprivation procedures.” The Court also found that the Plaintiffs argument made it clear that they will be able to obtain drivers’ licenses in the future, further damaging their standing. “Without a substantial likelihood of future injury, the Plaintiffs lack standing to seek equitable relief.”
While a case from 2016 may sound like old news, we couldn’t locate a single news source reporting the outcome without digging into the online court files themselves. Based on the Court’s finding, it’s unlikely a similar case will be filed anytime soon; the Court has spoken on this matter.
No matter how you felt regarding this case, at Lowman Law Firm we recommend that no one ever gets behind the wheel after drinking, even if it’s just one or two. The risk of DUI accident is too great, and ride-sharing options such as Uber and Lyft leave no more room for excuses. If you are the victim of a DUI drivers’ negligence, we are here for you. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and your options.