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Commonwealth v. Middaugh

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

January 20, 2021

In March 2014, Appellee was convicted of DUI. The clerk’s office was required to send PennDOT a record of the conviction within ten days after its occurrence. See75 Pa.C.S. § 6323(1)(i). For some reason, that office waited twenty-eight months after the ten-day deadline had passed to notify PennDOT of the conviction. When PennDOT received the notification, it sent a letter to Appellee,  informing him that his driving privileges would be suspended for one year. Appellee filed an appeal in the Common Pleas Court, challenging the suspension’s validity due to the delay involved. The court credited Appellee’s testimony and ruled in his favor. The Commonwealth Court affirmed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed. In Commonwealth v. Middaugh, the Court agreed with the Commonwealth Court decisions that suggested that a license suspension, which is unreasonably delayed through no fault of the driver’s, can result in a denial of due process. Next, the Court concluded that a claim that a license suspension imposed after an unreasonable delay violated the driver’s due process rights stands on the same footing regardless of whether the delay is caused by PennDOT or the clerk of the common pleas court. In assessing whether relief is due, courts should consider the driver’s violations (if any) during the course of the delay. Lastly, the Court agreed with the Commonwealth Court decisions, which required that the driver demonstrates they suffered prejudice from the delay. Applying these precepts, the Court held that the approximately 28-month delay in Appellee’s case denied due process.

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