The Interstate Compact and Related Issues
February 14, 2008
One of the questions we most frequently receive goes something like this. "My client, a New York resident, was arrested in for Driving While Intoxicated in the State of Vermont. What affect will that have on her license to drive in the State of New York?" Another inquiry which is frequently made concerns an out of state motorist who is arrested for an alcohol related operating offense in the State of New York. In this variant, the problem which is generally posed surrounds the effect that a New York conviction will have upon the sister state privileges. In the same vein are those situations where the motorist had a New York license at the time of the arrest but has since taken up residence in a neighboring state and has surrendered the New York license.
All of these cases, to one extent or another, involve the Interstate Compact on DWI. While in the practice of alcohol influenced operating offenses we, for good reason, prefer not to leave our own bailiwick, at times the issue simply may not be avoided. The intense mobility of the nineties coupled with corporate downsizing, early retirement and the omni‑presence of college students, means that this will be an issue that will never go away. Therefore, in this Bulletin, we thought it best to take a look at the Interstate Compact and some of the related issues.
The Interstate Compact on DWI finds its origin in Vehicle and Traffic Law ' 516. The text of this provision is quite long and, for our purposes, we'll set out only the most pertinent provisions:
1. The driver license compact is hereby enacted into law and entered into with all other jurisdictions joining therein in the form substantially as follows:
DRIVER LICENSE COMPACT
As used in this compact:
(a) "State" means a state, territory or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or a province of Canada.
(b) "Home state" means the state which has issued and has the power to suspend or revoke the use of the license or permit to operate a motor vehicle.
(c) "Conviction" means a conviction of any offense related to the use or operation of a motor vehicle which is prohibited by state law, municipal ordinance or administrative rule or regulation, or a forfeiture of bail, bond or other security deposited to secure appearance by a person charged with having committed any such offense, and which conviction or forfeiture is required to be reported to the licensing authority.
Reports of Conviction
The licensing authority of a party state shall report each conviction of a person from another party state occurring within its jurisdiction to the licensing authority of the home state of the licensee. Such report shall clearly identify the person convicted; describe the violation specifying the section of the statute, code or ordinance violated; identify the court in which action was taken; indicate whether a plea of guilty or not guilty was entered, or the conviction was a result of the forfeiture of bail, bond or other security; and shall include any special findings made in connection therewith.
Effect of Conviction
(a) The licensing authority in the home state, for the purposes of suspension, revocation or limitation of the license to operate a motor vehicle, shall give the same effect to the conduct reported, pursuant to article III of this compact, as it would if such conduct had occurred in the home state, in the case of convictions for:
(1) Manslaughter or negligent homicide resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
(2) Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a narcotic drug, or under the influence of any other drug to a degree which renders the driver incapable of safely driving a motor vehicle;
(3) Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;
(4) Failure to stop and render aid in the event of a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death or personal injury of another.
(b) If the laws of a party state do not provide for offenses or violations denominated or described in precisely the words employed in subdivision (a) of this article, such party state shall construe the denominations and descriptions appearing in subdivision (a) hereof as being applicable to and identifying those offenses or violations of a substantially similar nature and the laws of such party state shall contain such provisions as may be necessary to ensure that full force and effect is given to this article.
Applications for New Licenses
Upon application for a license to drive, the licensing authority in a party state shall ascertain whether the applicant has ever held, or is the holder of a license to drive issued by any other party state. The licensing authority in the state where application is made shall not issue a license to drive to the applicant if:
(1) The applicant has held such a license, but the same has been suspended by reason, in whole or in part, of a violation and if such suspension period has not terminated.
(2) The applicant has held such a license, but the same has been revoked by reason, in whole or in part, of a violation and if such revocation has not terminated, except that after the expiration of one year from the date the license was revoked, such person may make application for a new license if permitted by law. The licensing authority may refuse to issue a license to any such applicant if, after investigation, the licensing authority determines that it will not be safe to grant to such person the privilege of driving a motor vehicle on the public highways.
(3) The applicant is the holder of a license to drive issued by another party state and currently in force unless the applicant surrenders such license.
Okay, so what is an Interstate Compact? Reduced to its simplest terms, it is a contract that has been signed by various member states wherein certain reciprocal agreements are made. In this instance, to enable enforcement of administrative penalties for serious vehicular offenses.
As of the present time, the list of signatories to the Compact include the following states which are reprinted with the statutory reference to the home state:
Alabama: Code of Ala 1975 '' 32‑6‑30 to 32‑6‑36
Alaska: Alaska: AS '' 28.37.010 to 28.37.l90 
Arizona: A.R.S. ' 28‑1601 et. seq.
Arkansas: Ark. Code Ann. '' 27‑17‑101 to 27‑17‑106
California: West's Ann.Cal.Veh.Code ' 15000 et. seq.
Colorado: C.R.S. '' 24‑60‑1101 to 24‑60‑1107
Delaware: 21 Del. C. '' 8101, 8111 to 8113
Florida: West's F.S.A. ' 322.43 et. seq.
Hawaii: HRS '' 286C‑l, 286C‑2
Idaho: I.C. '' 49‑2001 to 49‑2003
Indiana: IC 9‑28‑1‑1 to IC 9‑28‑1‑6
Illinois: 625 ILCS 5/6‑700 et. seq.
Iowa: I.C.A. '' 321C.1, 321C.2
Kansas: K.S.A. 8‑1212 et. seq.
Louisiana: LSA‑R.S. 32:1420
Maine: 29 M.R.S.A. Sec. 631 et. seq.
Maryland: Md. [Transp.] Code Ann. '' 16‑701 to 16‑708 
Massachusetts: ALM GL 90:30B 
Minnesota: M.S.A. ' 171.50 et. seq. (Supp.) 
Mississippi: Code 1972, '' 63‑1‑101 to 63‑1‑113
Missouri: V.A.M.S. '' 302.600, 302.605 
Montana: MCA Title 61, chapter 5, part 4
Nebraska: R.R.S.1943, Vol. 2A Appendix (T)
Nevada: NRS 483.640 et. seq.
New Hampshire: RSA 263:77‑263:81 
New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 39:5D‑1 et seq.
New Mexico: NMSA 1978 '' 66‑5‑49 to 66‑5‑51
New York: McKinney's Vehicle & Traffic Law ' 516‑A, 516‑B
Ohio: RC 4507.60‑4507.63 
Oklahoma: 47 O.S. ' 781 et seq.
Oregon: ORS 802.540, 802.550 
South Carolina: Code 1976, '' 56‑1‑610 to 56‑1‑690 
South Dakota: SDCL ' 32‑12‑56.l
Tennessee: T.C.A. ' 55‑50‑702
Texas: Vernon's Ann. Civ. St. art 6701d‑27 
Utah: U.C.A 1953, 53‑3‑601 to 53‑3‑607
Vermont: V.S.A. 29 Sec. 565 
Virginia: Code 1950, Secs.46.2‑483 to 46.2‑488
Washington: RCW 46.21.010 et seq.
West Virginia: Code, '' 17B‑1A‑l, 17B‑1A‑2
Wyoming: W.S. '' 31‑7‑140, 31‑7‑201, 31‑7‑202 
District of Columbia: D.C. Code '' 40‑1501 
Congress: 72 Stat. 635 (1958)
So what are the particular problems that may be encountered under the Compact? Basically they go in two directions which are best illustrated by example. Assume that Brenda, a Vermont resident and license holder, is convicted in New York for Driving While Intoxicated under Vehicle and Traffic Law ' 1192(2). At the time of sentencing, the most the Court can do with regards to her license is to revoke her privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the State of New York. The sentencing court may not properly revoke her license inasmuch as the sentencing court has no jurisdiction over the license. Of importance to our judicial subscribers is that the Compact does not give the sentencing court the power to revoke an out of state license. What's more, the sentencing court is not obligated to report the conviction to the Vermont licensing authorities, this being the statutory authority of the Compact Administrator. Therefore, Brenda happily pays her fine inasmuch as she has no intention of returning to New York during the statutory period of revocation. Alas and alack, however, all is not as it seems. Upon her return to Vermont, at some point in time, which is determined by the efficiency with which the Compact Administrator and the Vermont licensing authority go about their work, Brenda will find that her license to operate a motor vehicle in Vermont is revoked in accordance with the sanction applicable to a similar violation in that state.
Turning to the converse, assume that Charlie is a New York resident. On a trip to Killington, he is stopped on the access road, fails a chemical test by blowing a .12 and is ultimately convicted of a per se operating offense. Like Brenda, he too finds that his privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the State of Vermont is revoked. Like Brenda, he too will feel that by the happenstance of Federalism that he has narrowly avoided losing his license to drive. Unfortunately, like Brenda, he too will find that his home state, in this case New York, will revoke his license to operate a motor vehicle.
The foregoing, of course, are the simpler applications and, with an eye on the Compact, are quite simple. There are, however, far more complicated variants.
Take the situation of Rob. Rob is a graduate student at RPI. Following a graduation party Rob is stopped, arrested and ultimately convicted of Violating New York Vehicle and Traffic Law ' 1192(2). Following graduation, but prior to any conviction, Rob takes a position with a Silicon Valley microchip firm. At the time of the conviction, Rob surrenders his New York license and within a week applies for a California license by surrendering a duplicate of the now invalid New York license. Has the swiftness with which he acted enabled him to escape the licensing ramifications of the conviction? In a word, no. Upon notification by California to New York that Rob surrendered his license, New York will notify California of the conviction whereupon, pursuant to the terms of the Compact, California will revoke.
Taking the above set of facts, assume that Rob had surrendered his New York license and obtained a California permit prior to the New York conviction. Would the result be the same? Currently available information says that it will. In this situation there exist a high probability that upon notification to California by New York that Rob's privilege to operate has been revoked in the State of New York, California will impose the licensing sanction which is applicable in that state.
Rob's situation, of course, begs the obvious. If he maintains his New York license and surrenders it at conviction, how does he go about getting relicensed. We now know that he should not immediately apply in California, since they will revoke. On the other hand, his New York license has been revoked and as a California resident he can no longer legally reapply in New York. Does this mean that he will once again have to become a New York resident for the sole purpose of obtaining a New York license so he can simply surrender the same to the State of California? It does not. All Rob will have to do is to supply an alcohol evaluation to the State of New York after the term of his revocation has expired. This will have the effect of clearing what is now a non‑resident privilege to operate in New York and will clear him for application in California. There exists one caveat, however. The alcohol evaluation will have to be submitted in a format approved for such purpose by the State of New York. This may mean that Rob will either have to supply his California evaluator with the necessary form or have the evaluation performed in New York by a DMV recognized Certified Alcohol Counselor.
Much of the foregoing, of course, could be avoided by a conviction to DWAI. Since the licensing sanction is a 90 day suspension, Rob's privilege would have automatically cleared provided he paid the $25.00 restoration fee.
Then there exists the true "nightmare scenario." Assume that Sharon is an Illinois resident and is attending NYU Law School. Assume that in her freshman year, she gets stopped for Driving While Intoxicated while she has her Illinois license. Assume she decides it's wiser at this stage to obtain a New York license and that she does so prior to disposition of the DWI. Thereafter, Sharon is convicted of ' 1192(2), surrenders her New York license and successfully completes the DDP program. Following graduation, Sharon takes a job with a Boston law firm. Despite what otherwise appears to be complete compliance, Sharon is in for a surprise. At some point in the future, Massachusetts will notify her that her license is revoked. Why? Because of an Illinois revocation. Recall that Sharon had an Illinois license at the time of her arrest. Therefore, it is the Illinois license that will be reported to T‑Sled and ultimately find its way to the Compact Administrator. The home state at the time of the conviction will then report the revocation to the present state of residence. The fact that she was licensed by New York at the time of the conviction is of no import. To lift the Illinois revocation which will in turn lift the Massachusetts ban, Sharon must demonstrate to the State of Illinois that she met all New York requirements for relicensure.
What of conditional licenses? In the interstate situation may the motorist receive conditional driving privileges?
The answer to this inquiry depends upon several factors, most notably the state of occurrence.
In the event that a New York motorist is convicted in a sister state, one must turn to the NYCRR, and in this case, with potentially favorable results. 15 NYCRR 134.2 sets out that "[a]ny person who is convicted * * * of a violation of any subdivision of section 1192 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, or of an alcohol or drug‑related traffic offense in another state, shall be eligible for enrollment in an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program." In accordance with this regulation, 15 NYCRR 134.13 sets forth that:
All of the provisions [relating to DDP attendance and issuance of a conditional license] of this Part shall be applicable to the holder of a New York State driver's license who has been convicted of an alcohol or drug‑related traffic offense in another state except that those provisions which relate to the actions of the convicting judge, the effect of satisfactory completion of a rehabilitation program upon a sentence of fine or imprisonment and notification to the court by the department shall not be applicable.
Thus, if Charlie, a New York licensee, has been convicted of an eligible alcohol related operating offense in a sister state, New York will permit him to attend the New York State Drinking Driver Program and receive a conditional license provided he is otherwise eligible (see, 3 NY DWI Bulletin 4). However, in what is apparently a concession to the power of the sister state in which Charlie is convicted, he will not be permitted to operate a motor vehicle under the conditional license in such sister state unless that state permits such operation.
The converse and more problematic situation is when a sister state motorist is convicted in New York. In this situation the question as to whether the sister state motorist will be permitted to attend a Drinking Driver Program and receive a conditional license will depend entirely upon the applicable rules and regulations of the state in which such motorist resides. To properly represent the out‑of‑state motorist, counsel is advised to write the DMV in the motorist's home state early in the proceeding and request information as to what must be done to obtain a conditional license.
Commercial Driver's Licenses present what is perhaps the most difficult scenario. The prohibition against commercial operation during the period of a conditional license which is imposed by Vehicle and Traffic Law ' 1196(7)(g) was added to fulfil what was then believed to be a Federal mandate. Notwithstanding this prohibition, the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles will permit commercial operation so long as the sentencing court has issued a certificate of relief from civil disabilities, which certificate specifically sets forth that the disability waived is for commercial operation. Given the history of this statute, one must not assume that a sister state licensee who is sentenced upon a New York alcohol related operating offense will be afforded similar treatment in his or her home state. In the same vein, although a New York commercial licensee who is convicted of an alcohol related operating offense in a sister state and chooses to attend a New York DDP would receive a conditional license, commercial driving privileges will, in all likelihood not be available. It is our belief that even if the out-of-state analogue of a certificate of relief from civil disabilities was granted at sentencing, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles would not necessarily be obliged to honor such a document. We are in the process of attempting to ascertain the official position of the DMV on this issue, and we will advise you as soon as we are informed of the same.
For further information on the Compact you can contact the Driver License Compact Administration, c/o Driver/Vehicle Services, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1100, Arlington, VA 22203‑1800, Tel: (703) 522‑4200
FAX: (703) 522‑1553.
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