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Motor Vehicle Admin. v. Salop

Court of Appeals of Maryland

July 21, 2014

MOTOR VEHICLE ADMINISTRATION
v.
JOSHUA SALOP

Argued June 4, 2014.

Circuit Court for Montgomery County. Case No. 306894V. Certiorari to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. Eric M. Johnson JUDGE.

ARGUED BY Damon L. Bell, Assistant Attorney General (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland of Baltimore, MD) on brief FOR PETITIONER.

ARGUED BY Paul T. Stein (Deanna L. Peters, Stein Sperling Bennett Delong Driscoll, P.C. of Rockville, MD) on brief FOR RESPONDENT.

ARGUED BEFORE Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, JJ. Opinion by Barbera, C.J.

OPINION

Page 193

[439 Md. 412] Barbera, C.J.

This case involves the interstate Driver License Compact (" Compact" ), the articles of which are codified at Maryland Code (1977, 2012 Repl. Vol.), § 16-703 of the Transportation Article (hereinafter " TR" ). Presuming that drivers who disregard traffic laws in other states will do so in the home state as well, thereby posing a danger to public safety, the Compact is a comprehensive interstate agreement " designed to promote compliance with motor vehicle laws in the party states and to [439 Md. 413] make the reciprocal recognition of licenses to drive and eligibility more just and equitable." [1] Gwin v. Motor Vehicle Admin., 385 Md. 440, 457, 869 A.2d 822 (2005) (quotation and citation omitted). To that

Page 194

end, the Compact requires party states to report all convictions of an out-of-state driver to the state that issued the driver a license to operate a motor vehicle. TR § 16-703, art. III. For certain offenses, the home state then gives the same effect to the conduct underlying the conviction as it would if such conduct had occurred in the home state. TR § 16-703, art. IV(a). In addition to enacting the articles of the Compact, 1987 Md. Laws ch. 320, Maryland has adopted other laws that relate to its enforcement. TR § § 16-701 - 16-708. Of particular relevance, one such provision, TR § 16-708, provides for judicial review of acts done under the Compact and sets forth the scope of that judicial review.

In 2012, Respondent Joshua Salop, who held a provisional driver's license,[2] paid a fine for speeding in Delaware, which is a party state to the Compact. Pursuant to the Compact, the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles (" DMV" ), the licensing authority in that state, reported to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (" MVA" ), the licensing authority in our state, that Respondent had been convicted of speeding. The MVA recorded a speeding conviction on Respondent's Maryland driving record and sent Respondent notice that it would be suspending his license for 30 days.

[439 Md. 414] Respondent contested the suspension at an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (" ALJ" ) of the Office of Administrative Hearings (" OAH" ), arguing that his payment of the speeding ticket did not constitute a conviction under Delaware law. The ALJ, in rendering a decision on behalf of the MVA, refused to consider that argument. Upon judicial review, however, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County ruled that the payment of a fine did not constitute a conviction under Delaware law, reversing the decision of the ALJ. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, with the direction to reinstate the decision of the ALJ.

I.

Respondent received a ticket for speeding while driving in Delaware on March 3, 2012. He paid the fine associated with the ticket; the matter was not adjudicated in court. Based upon his payment of the fine, the Delaware DMV reported to the MVA that Respondent had been convicted of speeding, and the MVA recorded that conviction on Respondent's Maryland driving record. Accordingly, the MVA sent to Respondent a notice that it would be suspending his provisional license for 30 days.[3] The notice advised that Respondent

Page 195

had the right to request a hearing to show cause why the suspension [439 Md. 415] should not be imposed. Respondent did so, and on June 7, 2012, an ALJ presided over the " show cause" hearing.[4]

The MVA was not represented at the hearing but submitted into evidence Respondent's Maryland driving record, which listed two moving violations: a 2011 conviction in Maryland for the offense of failure to obey a flashing traffic signal, and a conviction for speeding in Delaware with a conviction date of March 12, 2012, evidently the date the Delaware DMV processed Respondent's payment of the fine.[5] The ALJ reviewed Respondent's driving record and stated, " There appear to have been two violations . . . . So that's why you're here, with the [TR § 16-213(c)(2)] violation." The issue before the ALJ, it appears, was the penalty to be imposed.

Respondent moved the ALJ to " dismiss" the notice of suspension, arguing that the payment of a fine is not a conviction under Delaware law and therefore does not trigger the Compact's reporting requirement.[6] The ALJ denied the motion. The ALJ determined that, once advised of the conviction by Delaware, the MVA properly recorded it on Respondent's Maryland driving record.[7]

[439 Md. 416] The ALJ found that Respondent had two moving violations on his record and, consequently, concluded that Respondent was in violation of TR § 16-213(c)(2). As to the penalty, in an exercise of his discretion, the ALJ issued a reprimand, rather than the 30-day suspension permitted by statute. The ALJ explained why: " [U]nder these cases where a young person has only had two tickets, my policy has been and continues to be normally, unless there are exigent circumstances, that I simply issue a reprimand and take no action against him, and so that's what I'm going to do." [8] The ALJ advised Respondent that he had the right to appeal the decision of the MVA to the Circuit Court ...


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