Lawsuits to Target By-Mail License Suspensions in Washington


Four attorneys have taken the first steps toward launching a class-action suit to clear driving records and recoup fees paid by people who had their driver’s licenses suspended by mail because they didn’t pay traffic tickets or show up in court. Last week, Washington Supreme Court struck down two laws as unconstitutional, saying the state Department of Licensing’s practice of suspending licenses for certain drivers through the mail violated rights to due process.

Seattle attorney Steve Berman, who filed a class-action complaint in U.S. District Court in Seattle, said more than 1 million people could be part of a class-action suit against the Licensing Department. In its 5-4 ruling last week, the state Supreme Court said the two statutes are unconstitutional because they don’t provide for an administrative hearing or an appeal procedure and thus deny individuals due process guaranteed by the Constitution. At issue is the Licensing Department’s lack of a formal hearing or appeal for people whose licenses were suspended after they didn’t appear in court or pay traffic tickets. Drivers with outstanding tickets or fines were notified of the suspensions through the mail but had no opportunity to contest potential errors.


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