PennDOT Cannot Deny a License Before it Receives an Application

A person must submit an application for a driver’s license or renewal before PennDOT can invoke Section 1503(a)(8) of the Vehicle Code to deny that person a license, the Commonwealth Court ruled in Perrotta v. Department of Transportation, __ A.3d __ (No. 650 CD 2014, filed February 25, 2015). Licensee in this case had three different driver’s licenses under three different names over a 25-year period. At a time when Licensee’s only remaining license was revoked, PennDOT sent him an Official Notice of Denial stating that his “ability to obtain an Initial Issuance, Renewal or Duplicate” of his license was being denied pursuant to Section 1503(a)(8) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. §1503(a)(8). Section 1503(a)(8) states that PennDOT “shall not issue a driver’s license to, or renew the driver’s license of, any person …

[w]ho has repeatedly violated any of the provisions of this chapter.” The trial court granted Licensee’s appeal, holding that because his operating privileges were revoked, PennDOT had to wait until he was eligible to obtain a driver’s license before it could deny his ability to do so.

The Commonwealth Court affirmed on different grounds. Writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Brobson observed that neither an initial issuance nor a renewal of a license happens automatically; an application is a prerequisite for both. Without an application pending before it in this case, PennDOT had nothing to respond to and thus nothing it could deny. The Court noted that allowing PennDOT to preemptively judge the eligibility of potential drivers would be a waste of department resources since not every potential driver chooses to apply for a license or renewal. The Court also declined to defer to PennDOT’s interpretation of Section 1503(a)(8) because it was erroneous and because PennDOT expressed it for the first time in an appellate brief, with no supporting rules, regulations or policy statements.

Photo by Ken Lund

By | 2017-05-19T22:51:32+00:00 March 18th, 2015|Categories: Administrative Law|Tags: , , |1 Comment

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One Comment

  1. Robert G. Williamson March 20, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    The waste of public resources flushed away on such a frivolous appeal unfortunately shocks no lawyer who has ever litigated motor vehicle cases with PennDOT.

    What should happen in such cases is an award of counsel fees to the appellee, hefty sanctions against the trial lawyer representing the Department as well as his or her supervisor and the AAG assigned to PennDOT. All three officers of the Court should also be referred to the Disciplinary Board for bringing a clearly frivolous and dilatory appeal with absolutely no factual, legal, or policy basis or even a good faith belief that the Commonwealth Court panel members forced to hear such a case would either be completely ignorant of the Rules of Appellate Procedure PaRAP or accept such an absurd argument and change existing law.

    And, of course, all of this nonsense is on the public dime in a state which lacks sufficient financial resources to repair crumbling transportation infrastructure.

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