Can You Be Punished for Suspicion of Drunk Driving?
It has always been a cornerstone of the United States Constitution that a citizen is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. No citizen can be punished based merely upon a police officer’s suspicion that he or she has committed a criminal offense.
In a recent example of this widely-prevailing view, consider a recent decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in the case of Hunsucker vs Fallin (December 20, 2017), as reported by TheNewspaper.com:
Oklahoma Supreme Court Slams DUI Law
Oklahoma City, OK. Dec. 27, 2017 — Oklahoma’s attempt to crack down on drunk driving went too far. In a ruling last week, the state Supreme Court declared the Impaired Driving Elimination Act violated the due process rights of motorists by, among other provisions, requiring police officers to tear up a driver’s license upon the mere suspicion that he might be impaired.A group of attorneys filed suit, arguing that it was unconstitutional for the government to seize and destroy someone’s property without even allowing a hearing to contest the license seizure — and the high court agreed.
“More than forty years ago the US Supreme Court explained that revocation of a driver’s license must conform to the Due Process Clause,” Justice James E. Edmondson wrote for the court. “The Due Process protection of the licenses was viewed not as a mere state-created interest, right, or privilege, but when drivers’ licenses are issued their continued possession may become essential in the pursuit of a livelihood and suspension of issued licenses thus involves state action that adjudicates important interests of the licensees.”…
The law in question also included a half-dozen other provisions criminalizing the refusal to take a breath test, regulating deferred prosecution programs and providing conditions for the use of ignition interlock devices. The court found the hodge-podge of provisions in the 82-page bill violated the state constitutional requirement that bills stick with a single topic.
Question: Why was it necessary for the state’s supreme court to tell the legislature and courts that seizing and destroying a citizen’s driver’s license based entirley upon a cop’s suspicions was a violation of the Constitution?