Administrative Review of Drivers License Revocations and License Plate Impoundments

ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW OF DRIVERS LICENSE REVOCATIONS – GENERAL

While the bulk of this tip is devoted to the situation of DWI and Implied Consent, the Department will conduct an informal administrative review on just about any license withdrawal if requested. See Minn. R. 7409.4600 (2005).

Basic forms for submitting requests for administrative review can be found on the Department’s website at:  https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/forms-documents/Pages/default.aspx.  Please note that these forms are very basic.  For submission of an effective administrative review request, I suggest the following:

  • Don’t rely on the forms only.  Instead, supplement the form with copies of the police reports, test results, peace officer certificate, the advisory form, and any other documents relevant to your issue.  Supplement with affidavits, if necessary.
  • Don’t submit a “boiler-plate” form challenge to every possible issue available.  Instead, focus on your main issue(s) and clearly identify the same in a cover letter to the Commissioner attached to your request.
  • Identify and attach controlling case law and/or statutes in your cover letter that clearly dispose of your issue(s).  Be thorough, but be brief.

ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW OF  DRIVERS LICENSE REVOCATIONS AND LICENSE PLATE IMPOUNDMENTS UNDER MINNESOTA’S DWI/IMPLIED CONSENT LAW

Minn. Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 2(a) (license revocation) and Minn. Stat. § 169A.60, subd. 10(a) (plate impoundment) specifically limit the availability of judicial review over DWI/Implied Consent driver’s license revocations and plate impoundment orders to those petitions filed with the district court within 30 days after the date on which the Notice and Order for Revocation or Impoundment was received by the motorist.  Timely filing and service of the petition for judicial review is jurisdictional.  So, what do you do if your client misses the 30-day filing deadline and she has a solid issue for review?

Both Minn. Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 1 (license revocation) and Minn. Stat. § 169A.60, subd. 9 (plate impoundment) provide for administrative review of the license revocation or plate impoundment order at any time during the effective period of the revocation or impoundment. 

See Id.  However, once the revocation or impoundment period has been served and the license or plates have been reinstated, there is no further right to administrative review.

The request for administrative review must be in writing and include, at a minimum:
1) The person’s full name;
2) The person’s date of birth;
3) The person’s driver’s license number and/or license plate number; and
4) A written statement of the factual basis upon which the person seeks to have the
revocation or plate impoundment rescinded.

Minn. R. 7503.1000, subp.2 (2005).  The request for administrative review will be most quickly and efficiently processed if sent to the following address:

Commissioner of Public Safety
Driver & Vehicle Services Division
Driver Evaluation Unit
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 170
St. Paul, MN  55101-5170

Upon receipt of the request, the Commissioner or his designee reviews the reports on file and whatever evidence the licensee has provided.  The statutes require the Commissioner to issue a written decision within 15 days of receipt of the request, but do not provide for any consequences if that statutory directive is not met.  Moreover, because judicial review is already available under Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.53 and 169A.60, there is no provision for any district court or appellate review of the Commissioner’s decision.  See Kleven v. Comm’r of Public Safety, 399 N.W.2d 153 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987) (the decision on administrative review is final and not subject to judicial review).

While many DWI practitioners discount the administrative review process as a “rubber stamp” of the Commissioner’s Order of Revocation or Impoundment, it is important to note that the Commissioner does not act as a trier of fact or otherwise resolve factual disputes when reviewing requests for administrative review.  Unlike the availability of judicial review, administrative review is intended to provide a speedy and inexpensive means of correcting obvious administrative mistakes or clear legal error.  Given the complexity of our DWI laws, law enforcement personnel do make mistakes when processing DWI suspects.  For example, an officer may have neglected to offer a suspect an alternative test when the person refused to submit to a blood test.  An officer may have issued a plate impoundment order based on the preliminary breath test (“PBT”) results, as opposed to the blood or urine test results which had not yet been analyzed.  An officer may have neglected to properly certify the test failure or refusal to the Commissioner.  Each of these limited examples of clear error or mistake do not require any resolution of disputed facts, are clear on the face of the police reports, and should result in a successful administrative rescission of the revocation or plate impoundment order if clearly identified in a request for administrative review.

It has been my experience over the years that the availability of administrative review has been under utilized by practitioners in the field.  Remember, administrative review can be sought at any time during the period of revocation or impoundment, independent of any judicial review.  It does not cost anything other than your hard work in preparing an effective written request for review.

Submitted by Jeffrey F. Lebowski, Assistant Attorney General
Minnesota Attorney General’s Office
Manager, Public Protection Section