Since grade school you have probably heard the phrase, “driving is a privilege, not a right”. It’s one of the nanny favorites, like “you must floss twice a day”, “keep your elbows off the table” and “ignorance of the law is no excuse”. Well, the phrase “driving is a privilege, not a right” is actually not true. In the United States, a license to drive is a constitutionally protected property right. You do, of course, have to be issued a license before driving. But, as long as you are old enough, pass written and road tests, follow the rules of the road, pay your issuance fees, pay for your insurance and don’t become mentally and/or physically unfit to drive, then that license you were issued (or right to drive) cannot be taken from you without due process. See Bell v. Burson 402 U.S. 535 (1971); see also Dixon v. Love 431 U.S. 105 (1971).
Driving is not just a matter of convenience…at least not here in California.
The Honorable P.J. Boren, the California Court of Appeal, Second District, said it best:
Harm may be presumed when a driver’s license is suspended. Once issued, a driver’s license “may become essential in the pursuit of a livelihood. Suspension of issued licenses thus involves state action that adjudicates important interests of the licensees.” (Bell v. Burson, supra, at p. 539.) “In our present travel-oriented society, the retention of a driver’s license is an important right to every person who has obtained such a license. … Whether a driver’s license is required only for delivering bread, commuting to work, transporting children or the elderly, meeting medical appointments, attending social or political functions, or any combination of these or other purposes, the revocation or suspension of that license, even for a six-month period, can and often does constitute a severe personal and economic hardship.
(Berlinghieri v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1983) 33 Cal.3d 392, 398 [188 Cal. Rptr. 891, 657 P.2d 383]; see Perkey v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1986) 42 Cal.3d 185, 199 [228 Cal. Rptr. 169, 721 P.2d 50] [“An individual can no more participate in the economic life of contemporary society without a driver’s license than without a bank account or telephone”].)”
Cinquegrani v. DMV 163 Cal.App.4th 741, 751 (2008)
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