Administrative License Suspension for DUI Related Offenses
Alabama Dept. of Public Safety v. Clark, 865 So. 2d 1199 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003)
In October 1998, Clark was arrested for DUI. The UTTC indicated a blood alcohol level of .17%. The same day the UTTC was issued, the Department issued an administrative order suspending Clark’s driving privileges pursuant to Act 96-322, codified at 32-5A-300. Under 32-5A-300(a), the Director of Public Safety must suspend the driving privileges “upon a determination that the person drove or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while the amount of alcohol in the blood of the person was above the legal limit.” In February 1999, the case against Clark was dismissed by the district court conditioned on payment of court costs and enrollment in a program recommended by the court referral officer. However, the administrative suspension ordered by the department remained in effect.
In June 1999, the Legislature re-wrote the administrative license suspension law. In section 32-5A-304(c), second sentence, was re-written to read:
“If a license is suspended under this section….and the criminal charge against the person for violation of Section 32-5A-191 is dismissed, nolle prossed, or the person is acquitted of the charge, the director shall rescind the suspension order and remove the administrative suspension from the person’s driving record.”
In March 2002, Clark petitioned the Director to apply the 1999 act retroactively and remove the suspension and entry on his driving record. The Director refused, claiming the 1999 act did not have retroactive effect. Clark then sought judicial review in the Montgomery County Circuit Court. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Clark and the Director appealed.
Held: The question before the Court is whether the 1999 act should be afforded retrospective application. In general, retrospective application of a statute is disfavored, absent an express statutory provision or clear legislative intent that the act be applied retrospectively as well as prospectively. However, if the act is “remedial” in nature, in that the act does not create, enlarge, diminish, or destroy a vested right, then the act will have retroactive effect absent clear language to the contrary. The Court then held the 1999 revision to 32-5A-300 had a remedial effect as a whole in the administration of the state’s administrative per se law and the procedures to be followed by law enforcement officers. Therefore, Clark was entitled to relief.