Petition for Writ of Certiorari to Review Quasi-Judicial Action, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: DRIVER’S LICENSES – Suspension – On notification of delinquency in child support, suspension of driver license is a ministerial duty of DHSMV in accordance with § 322.058(1), Fla. Stat. (2011), and DHSMV is not required to make findings that petitioner was actually delinquent in child support payments.  Department provided due process when it notified the petitioner of the pending driver license suspension, the actions that could avoid the suspension, and provided for an opportunity to be heard on the legal basis for the suspension.  Petition denied.  Bradford v. Fla. Dep’t of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, No. 12-000006AP-88A (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. April 25, 2012). 

 

NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES FOR REHEARING AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

 

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

IN AND FOR PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA

APPELLATE DIVISION

 

 

CONNIE D. BRADFORD,

      Petitioner,                                                          Case No.: 12-000006AP-88A

                                                                                UCN: 522012AP000006XXXXCV

 

 

v.

 

 

STATE OF FLORIDA, DEPARTMENT

OF HIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR

VEHICLES,

      Respondent.             

______________________________________/

 

Opinion Filed April 25, 2012

 

Petition for Writ of Certiorari from

Order of Suspension

Department of Highway Safety

and Motor Vehicles

 

Shazia N. Sparkman, Esq.

Kevin M. Sparkman, Esq.

Attorneys for Petitioner

 

Stephen D. Hurm, Gen. Counsel

Damaris E. Reynolds, Asst. Gen. Counsel

Attorneys for Respondent

 

 

PER CURIAM.

          Connie D. Bradford seeks certiorari review of the "Order of Suspension" of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Division of Motorist Services dated January 18, 2012.  The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

 

 

Statement of Case

          Ms. Bradford states that her driver's license was suspended pursuant to an Order of Suspension dated January 18, 2012.  The Order is attached to her petition and states in pertinent part:

          The Department [of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles ] will suspend your driving privileges and vehicle registration on FEBRUARY 7, 2012 because of the following: 

 

          Failed to pay or comply with an order for child support/alimony/genetic testing. 

         

          To avoid the suspension follow these instructions:

 

          1.  Contact Support Enforcement Office.

          ORANGE COUNTY CLERK OF COURT

          CHILD SUPPORT DIVISION

          425 NORTH ORANGE AVENUE

          ORLANDO, FL 32802

          TELEPHONE NUMBER 407-836-2000

 

          2.  Satisfy the requirements. . . . [O]btain a clearance document with a judge's signature or a court seal showing that you have fully complied with the court's requirements.  Take the court compliance to the nearest Florida driver license or tax collector office for immediate clearance.

          . . . .

 

          This order has been filed in the official record of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on the above date and a copy has been provided to the licensee by first class mail as required by section 322.251, Florida Statutes.  You may seek review of this order within 30 days of the date of this order by filing a petition for writ of certiorari as provided in section 322.31, Florida Statutes.

 

          If you believe that you have a legal basis to show cause why this action is unjustified, you may request a hearing at any Administrative Reviews Office to submit evidence that your license should not be revoked, suspended or cancelled.  You may present your evidence to a hearing officer. . . .  A request for a hearing does not stop the 30 days you have to file a petition for circuit court review under section 322.31, Florida Statutes.

 

          Ms. Bradford complains that she was not provided notice of any proceeding which sought suspension of her driving privileges and she was not afforded the opportunity to respond to the allegation of lack of payment of child support. 

 

Standard of Review

          Circuit court certiorari review of an administrative agency decision is governed by a three-part standard: (1) whether procedural due process is accorded; (2) whether the essential requirements of law have been observed; and (3) whether the administrative findings and judgment are supported by competent substantial evidence.  See Haines City Cmty. Dev. v. Heggs, 658 So. 2d 523, 530 (Fla. 1995). 

Analysis

          Section 322.058(1), Florida Statutes (2011), states that when the Department receives notice from a Title IV-D Agency, depository, or clerk of the court that a licensed driver has a delinquent support obligation it "shall suspend the driver's license of the person named in the notice and the registration of all motor vehicles owned by that person."  The statute is mandatory.  The act of suspending the driving privilege is simply a ministerial duty in response a notice by a Title IV-D Agency, depository, or clerk of the court.  The Department has no discretion. 

          In response to a Motion to Dismiss filed by the Department, Ms. Bradford indicates that she is involved in a domestic relations case pending in the Circuit Court in Orange County, Florida, with her ex-husband.  Connie D. Bradford v. John G. Bradford, Orange County Case Number 2004-DR-016907.  She conceded in her response to the Motion to Dismiss that upon its notification of a delinquency in child support, the Department's action in suspending an individual's driver's license under section 322.058(1) is ministerial.

          The Department is required to comply with section 322.251(1), Florida Statutes (2011), that states:

          All orders of cancellation, suspension, revocation, or disqualification issued under the provisions of this chapter . . . shall be given either by personal delivery thereof to the licensee whose license is being canceled, suspended, revoked, or disqualified or by deposit in the United States mail in an envelope, first class, postage prepaid, addressed to the licensee at his or her last known mailing address furnished to the department.  Such mailing by the department constitutes notification, and any failure by the person to receive the mailed order will not affect or stay the effective date or term of the cancellation, suspension, revocation, or disqualification of the licensee’s driving privilege.

 

          In the Petition, Ms. Bradford admits that she received the Order of Suspension and does not complain that the Order was not delivered to her at the last known mailing address furnished to the Department.  Ms. Bradford's complaint is that her due process rights were violated because she did not have the opportunity to respond to the allegations of lack of child support payments.  Ms. Bradford does not state that she does not have delinquent child support payments or that there would have been no reason for the clerk of court to have notified the Department of such delinquency.  If, in fact, Ms. Bradford is not delinquent in her child support payments, her avenue for relief is with the Circuit Court pursuant to section 322.058(2), Florida Statues (2011).

          The Order of Suspension dated January 18, 2012, states that the Department "will suspend your driving privilege and vehicle registrations on FEBRUARY 7, 2012" for failure to pay child support.  The suspension was not immediate.  The Order of Suspension, as reproduced in part above, was specific concerning the manner in which Ms. Bradford could avoid the suspension of her driver's license.  Further, Ms. Bradford was notified in the Order of Suspension that she was afforded the opportunity to request a hearing from any Administrative Reviews Office if she believed she had a legal basis to show cause why the suspension was unjustified.

          Procedural due process requires both fair notice and a real opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.  Massey v. Charlotte County, 842 So. 2d 142, 146 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003).  Ms. Bradford's due process rights were not violated as she was given the opportunity to be heard prior to the effective date of the suspension of her driver's license.

          Ms. Bradford also complains that "administrative findings and [the Order of Suspension] could not have been supported by competent, substantial evidence."  In fact there are no administrative findings by the Department.  The Department was not involved in determining whether Ms. Bradford actually was delinquent on her child support payments.  The Department, upon receiving notice of delinquency from a Title IV-D Agency, depository, or clerk of the court, merely performed its ministerial duties of notifying the individual of the impending suspension of their driving privileges in accordance with sections 322.058 and 322.251(1).

 

Conclusion

          The Court concludes that there was no violation of Ms. Bradford's due process rights; the essential requirements of law were met; and substantial, competent evidence supports a finding that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles properly performed the ministerial duties required by section 322.058(1), and 322.251(1).

          The Petition for Writ of Certiorari is denied.

          DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers in Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida, this 25th day of April, 2012.

 

Original order entered on April 25, 2012, by Circuit Judges Linda R. Allan, W. Douglas Baird, and John A. Schaefer.

 

Copies furnished to:

 

Timothy F. Sullivan, Esq.

9721 Executive Center Dr. North, Ste. 120

St. Petersburg, FL 33702

 

Stephen D. Hurm, Gen. Counsel

Kimberly A. Gibbs, Asst. Gen. Counsel

Dep't of Hwy. Safety & Motor Vehicles

P.O. Box 570066

Orlando, FL 32857