Indiana Driver’s Licenses Reinstated after Lawsuit Stay

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will stop using coverage data in a state registry as grounds to suspend the driver’s licenses of those lacking coverage, as the bureau also plans to reinstate the licenses of 1,221 motorists in the database that were previously suspended.

The moves are part of an agreement between the BMV and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought a lawsuit against the bureau in June.

Suspensions Based on State Database

The bureau’s Previously Uninsured Motorists Registry (PUMR) was approved in 2010 by state legislators to monitor drivers who had their licenses suspended at least once for driving without insurance. Those entered into the registry remain there for five years.

Before the lawsuit, the BMV had randomly drawn motorists from the database to verify that they had acquired insurance since being inputted into the database, and the BMV would suspend the licenses of those who had not.

About 4,000 motorists in the database were notified, failed to provide proof of auto insurance, and had their licenses suspended, according to BMV spokesman Dennis Rosebrough. Many of those had moved out of Indiana or let their licenses expire before the BMV and ACLU agreed on the lawsuit stay, he said, so the bureau will be sending notices of license reinstatement next week to the remaining 1,221.

After Lawsuit, BMV Takes Look at PUMR Rules, Law

To obtain a driver’s license, Indiana residents are not mandated by state law to prove they have coverage. As such, the ACLU argued in its class-action lawsuit that suspending the licenses of those who failed to prove insurance coverage amounted to an unlawful practice.

The ACLU claimed that plaintiffs they represented were not legally required to have coverage when the BMV suspended their licenses. Even though they had licenses, that didn’t necessarily mean that they owned a car in their name that needed to be insured.

Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana, said that the group was pleased that its lawsuit led to “stopping these unlawful suspensions.”

“The ability to drive is fundamental to many basic rights and to people’s ability to work and provide for their families,” she said in a statement.

Rosebrough said that PUMR had operated as it did because of a disconnect between the creation and application of law.

“In many situations, the Legislature creates the foundational law and the administrative agency is empowered with developing the regulations around how the law is actually applied,” he said, adding that PUMR regulations currently under a phase of “internal discussion” will address the lawsuit’s concerns.

“We’re in the process of promulgating regulations and addressing some of the details of the application of the law,” Rosebrough said in an interview with Online Auto Insurance News. “We’re not going to draw any more names in the meantime.”

Rosebrough said it was unlikely that any PUMR developments would occur by the end of the year. However, the BMV is also considering approaching the state Legislature when it reconvenes in January to discuss changes to the wording of the law governing PUMR that was crafted by lawmakers back in 2010.

“That gives us the opportunity, if we need it at that point, to ask for changes to the foundational law behind PUMR,” Rosebrough said.

The BMV will also notify other drivers whose official driving records were marked with PUMR suspensions; those suspensions will be expunged from their records, according to a BMV announcement.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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