An issue has arisen about refusal hearings post-Sandy. The DMV offices at 19 Rector Street have been closed and will remain so due to flooding. Arraignment courts have been suspending licenses for drivers who refuse to take a breath test and sending them to the closed DMV office for refusal hearings. When drivers arrive, they see a sign saying that the office is closed. So, what to do? Does the driver’s license remain suspended indefinitely? The answer is: NO.
Under VTL §1994, a driver has the right to a chemical test refusal hearing within 15 days of his license being temporarily suspended pending prosecution. If DMV is unable to conduct the hearing within that time, the driver’s license is automatically restored. So, for new arrests directed to the closed 19 Rector Street location, drivers will have their licenses automatically restored after 15 days of arraignment (at least for the time being).
We have learned from DMV that it is now working to set up files on the new 19 Rector Street cases and to divert the hearings to the Brooklyn North DMV office at the Atlantic Yards Mall. We have already received notice to appear at that location for an older rescheduled refusal hearing. DMV expects that walk-in refusal appearances for new cases will start up at the Atlantic Yards office starting December 13th. So, for all new cases, the arraignment court clerks should be directing drivers to that location for new matters. We will wait and see whether this actually occurs or if clerks still send people to the closed 19 Rector Street location.
Actual rescheduled refusal hearings are expected to start up in early January at the Atlantic Yards office. DMV says it will be limited to Brooklyn officers initially because there are notification issues that still need to be worked out. Long term, the 19 Rector Street office is expected to shift to a new location on Beaver Street but those plans are still in the work. Bottom line: Lawyers and clients need to pay close attention to temporary suspensions for refusal to submit to a chemical test to make sure that the notifications are directing drivers to the DMV Brooklyn North offices at the Atlantic Yards Mall. If all else fails, the DMV Safety Hearing Office can be contact at (518) 474-1509.