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Traffic Week: Mercy in the Court: Oregon DMV and the “False Identity”

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Even if Calvin sometimes bemoans that fact that life is never unfair in his favor, sometimes things do turn out the way they are supposed to, or at least the way we want them to:

Debra Denise Slaight V. DMV, Oregon Court of Appeals (A133609)

(For a summary of the case, see the 12/30/09 OJD Media Release)

“… ARMSTRONG, J.

Petitioner appeals a final order on reconsideration of the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division of the Department of Transportation (DMV) that imposed a one-year suspension of petitioner’s driving privileges pursuant to ORS 809.310(3)(a). DMV imposed the suspension on the ground that petitioner had violated ORS 807.530 by using a false identity to apply for a driver’s license. Petitioner contends that DMV erred in concluding that it was required to impose a one-year suspension for the violation….

Petitioner sought judicial review. While review was pending, DMV withdrew its final order and issued a revised final order on reconsideration. In that order, DMV treated petitioner’s good cause argument as one that sought only to modify the duration of the suspension, and it relied on ORS 809.415(5) to reject that argument. It reasoned that ORS 809.415(5) provides that a suspension for a violation of ORS 809.310 “shall continue for a period of one year,” and, consequently, that it lacked authority to suspend petitioner’s license for a period of less than a year.

We conclude that petitioner’s argument is not as narrow as DMV understood it to be. She argued to DMV and to us that the facts offered in mitigation provide good cause for DMV to decide not to suspend her license at all even though she had violated ORS 807.530. The order on reconsideration, which pertains only to DMV’s authority to impose a suspension of less than one year, does not address that qualitatively different alternative argument. Accordingly, we reverse the order to allow DMV to address it.

Reversed and remanded for reconsideration….” (read full opinion)

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