Does Double Jeopardy Apply in DUI Cases?

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that no person can be punished twice for the same crime. While this concept seems simple enough, it is often confusing for people convicted of driving under the influence. For those convicted of a DUI, it often seems like they face two punishments: one from the criminal legal system, and one from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Does facing both a criminal punishment and a driver’s license suspension constitute double jeopardy?

This issue has been debated in the legal system for decades, but legal cases from the state level all the way up to the United States Supreme Court have agreed that double jeopardy does not apply in this situation.

The rationale behind these decisions is that driving is a privilege, and not a right. This means that the revocation of a driver’s license is not a punishment, but just a suspension of a privilege. Because the DMV only has the authority to suspend or revoke a license, it is a purely administrative organization and double jeopardy does not apply. In contrast, the criminal legal system can confine a person, take away his or her right to vote or own a gun, and order probation, parole, or retribution.

This usually offers little comfort for people with a suspended or revoked license. The inability to drive legally often causes great hardships, and makes it difficult to get to work, get groceries, travel, or do any of the hundreds of things that people need a vehicle to do.

The DMV has the authority to suspend a person’s license automatically after a DUI arrest, but that does not mean that people who have been arrested have no options. With the help of an experienced DUI attorney, drivers can fight a suspension at a DMV hearing or appeal, and can also apply for a hardship license which will allow the person to continue driving in limited instances.

With two systems coming at you after a DUI arrest, it is important to have a Florida DUI defense lawyer on your side who can effectively argue your case to both the DMV representative and the criminal court. At the Law Offices of Jonathan M. Galler, P.A., we will fight to help you keep your license and minimize the consequences of your arrest. To schedule your free appointment, contact our office today by calling 561.881.6912.