|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: November 7, 2003
Re: Authority of municipal court to suspend driver license
You have asked me whether a municipal court, without concurrent general sessions jurisdiction, has authority to confiscate or suspend a person’s driver license. In my opinion, considering the facts related to me, the court has no such authority.
It is my understanding that a charge for speeding and failure to appear were before the court when this issue of confiscation or suspension of a driver license arose. Regardless of a person’s driving record, and the number of speeding tickets or other charges appearing on his record, a municipal court does not have authority to suspend a license under those circumstances.
It is a fundamental concept of law that a driver license, after being first issued, becomes a property right that cannot be revoked or suspended without the procedural due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 99 S.Ct. 2612, 61 L.Ed.2d 321 (1979). The state statutes which permit the suspension or revocation of drivers licenses contain specific due process provisions providing for a hearing and notice. These statutes include charges for driving under the influence, vehicular manslaughter and other felonies involving the operation of a motor vehicle, none of which may be heard in municipal courts. T.C.A. § 55-50-501.
Municipal courts are only permitted to suspend a driver’s license if a defendant has failed to pay a fine, in violation of an order to pay in installments issued under T.C.A. § 40-20-104. Otherwise, city courts are not permitted to suspend licenses for failure to pay judgments or costs. Tenn Op. Atty. Gen. No. 97-029.
I hope this information is helpful. Please contact me should you need further assistance in this matter or any other.
Thank you for consulting with MTAS.
Melissa A. Ashburn