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Gail C. Crandall v. New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

June 8, 2011

GAIL C. CRANDALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES;
DAVID J. SWARTS, COMMISSIONEROF THE NYS DMV; AND
HON. RONALD L. BROVETTO, TOWN JUSTICE FOR THE TOWN OF HARPERSFIELD, NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Gail C. Crandall brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against Ronald L. Brovetto, Town Justice for the Town of Harpersfield, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and David J. Swarts, Commissioner of the DMV. (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Crandall alleges that the suspension of her driver's license pursuant to New York's Prompt Suspension Law*fn1 violated her rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (See id.) Pending are (1) Crandall's application for an Order to Show Cause seeking a preliminary injunction to stay the suspension of her license, and (2) defendants' motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (See Dkt. Nos. 2, 12, 21.) For the reasons that follow, defendants' motions are granted and Crandall's motion is denied.

II. Background

A. New York's Prompt Suspension Law

"In an effort to reduce the incidence of drunk driving on New York's roadways, the State Legislature enacted the prompt suspension law ... which under certain circumstances mandates the suspension of a driver's license to operate a motor vehicle pending prosecution for driving while intoxicated." Pringle v. Wolfe, 88 N.Y.2d 426, 429 (N.Y. 1996). Specifically, at the time a person charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) is arraigned, the court must suspend that person's license if it finds that "the accusatory instrument is sufficient on its face and [there is] reasonable cause to believe that the driver operated a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of at least [0.08] as evidenced by the results of a chemical test." Id. at 429-30; N.Y. VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1193(2)(e)(7)(b).If the court finds the criteria are satisfied, the driver is entitled to a Pringle hearing, which is a pre-suspension "opportunity to make a statement regarding [the two criterion] and to present evidence tending to rebut the court's findings." N.Y. VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1193(2)(e)(7)(b); see also Pringle, 88 N.Y.2d at 432.

If suspension is ultimately deemed appropriate, the court is required to suspend the driver's license pending prosecution. If, however, a driver can demonstrate "extreme hardship," the Vehicle and Traffic Law authorizes a "hardship privilege," which permits the driver to operate a vehicle for such limited purposes as traveling to or from employment, school, or necessary medical treatment. See N.Y. VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1193(2)(e)(7)(e).

B. Facts

On January 26, 2008, Crandall was stopped by New York State Trooper D.E. Marschilok and subsequently charged with (1) driving across hazard markings; (2) driving with greater than .08% blood alcohol content; and (3) driving while intoxicated. See N.Y. VEH. & TRAF. LAW §§ 1128(d), §1192(2), 1192(3). Crandall's criminal charges came before Town of Harpersfield Justice Ronald Brovetto. During the arraignment, Crandall pled not guilty to each charge. Justice Brovetto indicated that he would suspend Crandall's driver's license pending prosecution pursuant to the Prompt Suspension Law. Thereafter, Crandall requested a Pringle hearing.

On May 1, 2008, Judge Brovetto conducted the Pringle hearing. During the hearing, Crandall's attorney attempted to ask various questions, but the court sustained the prosecution's objections to the inquiries.*fn2

Ultimately, Judge Brovetto ruled that the prosecution had satisfied its prima facie burden under Pringle and authorized the suspension of Crandall's driver's license pending prosecution.

III. Standard of Review

The standards for judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 56 are well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standards, the court refers the parties to its previous opinions in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F. Supp. 2d 215, 217-18 (N.D.N.Y. 2010) (Rule ...


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