According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, administrative license suspension (ALS) laws reduce the number of fatalities on the road during nighttime hours when people are most likely to drink and drive. Such laws authorize the police and law enforcement authorities to confiscate the license of anyone who refuses to take a chemical test or fails such a test. The Insurance Institute research points out that among 17 states that Have ALS laws, alcohol-related fatalities were reduced by approximately six percent. In a long-term study from 1976 through 2002, ALS laws in 38 states reduced alcohol related fatalities on the road by five percent. In addition, the research indicates that when compared to DWI offenders who did not receive an ALS suspension, drunk drivers who had their licenses automatically revoked were less likely to drink and drive and be involved in a crash. The study concluded that longer periods of ALS revocations are likely to be more effective than shorter periods of suspensions.
What are ALS Laws?
Administrative license suspension (ALS) laws give the police and other law enforcement officials the authority to confiscate the license of anyone who fails a chemical test or refused to submit to a chemical test. For example, if a person gets pulled over by the police for suspected drunk driving, that person is subject to having their license revoked on-the-spot if they fail a chemical test or refuse to take it. Unlike a traditional license suspension, an ALS revocation occurs before a person is actually convicted of a drunk driving offense. However, drivers are usually given a temporary license for a brief period, during which time they can challenge the suspension. If the driver doesn’t challenge the suspension, or if the suspension is upheld, his or her license will be revoked for a prescribed period of time. It is important to understand that the ALS revocation does not replace criminal prosecution, which is handled separately through the courts.
Are ALS Laws Constitutional?
Yes. In several cases, people have claimed that their due process rights were violated by having their licenses suspended prior to a conviction. However, because the ALS laws provide for a prompt post-suspension hearing, the courts have ruled that ALS laws do not hinder a person’s right to due process. Moreover, high courts in several states have also ruled that ALS laws do not violate the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Are All ALS Laws the Same?
No. Although 41 states, including New York, and the District of Columbia have ALS laws, they all vary based upon how long a driver can have a temporary license and the amount of time he or she has to contest the suspension at a hearing. Some states, such a New York, allow for drivers to get a conditional license to drive to and from work. However, conditional licenses may be revoked if a driver commits a traffic infraction. In New York, if a driver with a conditional license is pulled over for drunk driving, he or she will be charged with a felony, in addition to new drunk driving charges.
Do ALS Laws Cost Money to the Taxpayers?
No. In fact, many ALS laws actually make money for the states. Drivers who have had their licenses revoked must often pay a reinstatement fee to get a new license once the suspension period has passed.
Answers to many frequently asked questions regarding ALS laws can be found here on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website. Mothers Against Drunk Driving also provides an overview of the program.