At issue is an administrative interpretation by the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles that levies the District’s penalty for reckless driving — that is, automatic license revocation — for any reckless driving charge in the Commonwealth, where simply doing 81 mph on a highway with a 70 mph limit can be charged as reckless driving.
In Virginia, traveling in excess of 80 mph, regardless of the posted speed limit, is classified as reckless driving.
The DMV’s stance doesn’t make sense to the dozen or more D.C. residents who have had their licenses yanked over minor offenses; it doesn’t make sense to D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who has introduced legislation to correct the issue; and now it doesn’t make sense to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who on Friday asked the District’s attorney general to intervene and order the DMV to change its interpretation.
“No District resident should lose his or her driver’s license solely because he or she was driving 81 mph on an Interstate,” Mendelson wrote in a letter to AG Irvin B. Nathan, asking him also to restore the licenses already revoked.
Cheh has tentatively scheduled a Sept. 21 hearing on the issue, after which her legislation could quickly move forward. But Mendelson said the affected drivers shouldn’t have to wait that long.
“I question whether legislation is necessary to fix this situation, and I question the authority of DMV to automatically suspend a license based on what is nothing more than a speeding ticket,” he wrote.
Mendelson added this legal analysis: “For an offense in another jurisdiction to be treated the same in the District, the offense must be the same, or substantially similar. Mere speeding in the District is not ‘reckless driving’; driving 11 mph over the speed limit on an Interstate is not ‘reckless driving’ in the District. The DMV is wrong in its interpretation and application of the law.”
Ted Gest, a spokesman for Nathan, said his office is reviewing the matter and will respond to Mendelson “reasonably soon.”
Here’s Mendelson’s letter in full: