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State v. Hunnewell
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Decision:1998 ME 267
on Briefs:November 17, 1998
Decided:December 14, l998 




	[¶1]  Guy E. Hunnewell, Jr., appeals from the judgment entered in the
Superior Court (Kennebec County, Marden, J.) following a jury verdict
finding him guilty of operating a motor vehicle after his license had been
suspended (29-A M.R.S.A. § 2412-A (1996 & Supp 1997)).  On appeal,
Hunnewell challenges his conviction on the grounds that the notice of
suspension he received was inadequate and his constitutional right to due
process of law was violated.  Finding no violation of due process, we affirm
the judgment.
	[¶2]  The facts presented at trial may be summarized as follows: 
Hunnewell was charged with operating an unregistered vehicle in the fall of
1996 and given a Uniform Summons and Complaint to appear at the District
Court (Springvale) on January 6, 1997.  Having inadvertently failed to appear
in court on that date, in February he wrote to the clerk's office asking how
to rectify the situation.  The clerk informed Hunnewell in writing that his
license was under suspension until he either pled not guilty or pled guilty
and paid the $122 fine.  Hunnewell mailed the $122 fine to the court.  The
clerk then notified the Secretary of State that Hunnewell was eligible to
have his license reinstated.
	[¶3]  Hunnewell was stopped by a police officer in Sidney on the
evening of February 22, 1997 due to a problem with the lights on his
vehicle.  Because Hunnewell had not paid the reinstatement fee, his license
remained under suspension.  The officer informed Hunnewell that his
license was under suspension and issued him a Uniform Summons and
Complaint for operating a motor vehicle after his license had been
suspended.  When Hunnewell returned home that evening, he discovered a
notice from the Secretary of State in his mailbox informing him that his
license had been suspended and would remain suspended until he paid the
reinstatement fee.
	[¶4]  On appeal, Hunnewell's principal contention is that he did not
have actual notice of the required reinstatement fee at the time that he was
cited for operating a motor vehicle after suspension.  He contends that the
notice he received was statutorily and constitutionally defective.  The statute

1.  Offense; penalty.  A person commits a Class E offense if that
person operates a motor vehicle on a public way or in a parking
area when that person's license has been suspended or revoked,
and that person:

A.  Has received written notice of a suspension or
revocation from the Secretary of State;
B.  Has been orally informed of the suspension or
revocation by a law enforcement officer;
C.  Has actual knowledge of the suspension or
D.  Has been sent written notice in accordance with
section 2482 or former Title 29, section 2241,
subsection 4; or
E.  Has failed to answer or to appear in court
pursuant to a notice or order specified in section
2605 or 2608.

29-A M.R.S.A. § 2412-A(1) (1996).

	[¶5]  Hunnewell's license was suspended because of his failure to
appear in court pursuant to a summons for the crime of operating an
unregistered vehicle, an order specified in section 2605.  Therefore,
according to the terms of the statute, Hunnewell had failed to appear in
court pursuant to subsection (E).  None of the forms of notice recited in
subsections (A) through (D) are relevant.  Although section 2605, referenced
in subsection (E), instructs the Secretary of State to forward notice of the
suspension and requirements for reinstatement to the individual whose
license has been suspended for failing to appear, the receipt of such notice
is not an essential element of Hunnewell's conviction for operating after
suspension.  Although it is unfortunate that the letter from the clerk's office
omitted any reference to the reinstatement fee, as a matter of law, the clerk
was not required to send Hunnewell any notice of the suspension at all. 
	[¶6]  Hunnewell contends that his constitutional right to due process
of law was violated by the fundamental unfairness of the circumstances
surrounding his conviction.  Although a licensee does not have an absolute
right to ownership of a license, he or she is entitled to due process when
the privilege of holding a driver's license is suspended or revoked. 
See State v. Savard, 659 A.2d 1265, 1267 (Me. 1995).  In this case,
Hunnewell's due process rights were not violated because his own failure to
appear initiated the suspension of his license.  He was on notice that he was
expected to appear in court and answer to a charge on a certain date. 
Section 2412-A and his failure to appear provided him with sufficient notice
that his license would be suspended.  Therefore, his due process rights
were not violated.
	[¶7]  Hunnewell's remaining contentions are without merit.
	The entry is:
				    Judgment affirmed.

Attorneys for the State: David W. Crook, Esq. District Attorney Stephanos Orestis, Esq. Assistant District Attorney Kennebec County Courthouse 95 State St. Augusta, Maine 04330 Attorney for the Defendant: Ralph W. Brown, Esq. 19 Candlewyck Rd. Portland, Maine 04102