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Out-of-state handling of DUI cases sparks constitutional concern

States generally handle drunk driving in their own ways. It’s rare, therefore, that we would write about drunk driving out of state since Maryland DUI laws differ than laws in other states. But a recent report regarding the handling of some drunk driving cases in Pennsylvania is notable enough to discuss on the national level.

While there are state laws, there is also the Constitution. And the criminal process needs to fit into the scope of that law of the land, no matter what state we are in. A judge’s actions of taking away some DUI defendants’ driver’s licenses before trial or conviction has some questioning his ethics.

According to The Morning Call, a judge in a Pennsylvania county has thrown a wrench in the criminal trial process for some drunk driving defendant’s in his county. If the judge feels that the trial is being postponed for too long, he will supposedly require that a defendant surrender her license as a condition of bail. Keep in mind, this is before a trial or any sort of plea deal has taken place.

Taking away a person’s driving privileges is not unheard of in DUI cases. Generally, that decision is part of sentencing, meaning that the case has come to some sort of conclusion. Also, some courts will take away driver’s licenses in more extreme cases involving repeat offenders or those with clear problems with alcohol use.

Whether this judge’s actions will continue without being challenged higher up is for the future to tell. He believes that he is creating a safer community by keeping potential repeat drunk drivers off of the road.


The Morning Call: “Policy of taking licenses before a DUI conviction draws critics,” Riley Yates, Jan. 28, 2012

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