Never Having a License as Defense to DWS/DWR. State v. Sullivan


Brief Brief.  State v. Sullivan, 407 Md. 493 (2009)

Holding: “The Court of Appeals, Greene, J., held that defendant did not have a “privilege to drive” in Maryland that could be “revoked,” and thus defendant could not be convicted of driving while his privilege to drive was revoked.” Id at 493.


“…Under the plain language of section 16–101, a person may drive in Maryland, and is indeed “privileged to drive” in this State, if he or she holds a valid Maryland driver’s license, is exempt from the driver’s license requirement, or is otherwise authorized by law to drive in this State. The statute establishes unambiguously that a person may not even attempt to drive otherwise.” Id. at 501.

“…[We are not persuaded] …that there is an automatic privilege to drive a motor vehicle in Maryland that is not granted by legislative enactment. If we accept the State’s contention … the term “privilege to drive” becomes “surplusage” within the text of Section 16–303(d) of the Transportation Article. Consistent with the canons of statutory construction, we strive not to construe statutes so as to render any “word, clause, sentence or phrase” as “surplusage, superfluous, meaningless or nugatory.” State Central Collection v. Jordan, 405 Md. 420, 425, 952 A.2d 266, 269–70 (2008) (quoting Barbre v. Pope, 402 Md. 157, 172, 935 A.2d 699, 708 (2007)).” Id at 502.

“We thus hold that it is more reasonable, and consistent with the statutory scheme of Title 16, to interpret the phrase “privilege to drive” as found in Section 16–303(d) to apply to a person who is authorized to drive in this State pursuant to a valid Maryland driver’s license or an exemption from the Maryland driver’s license requirement, as set forth in Section 16–102 of the Transportation Article. Accordingly, Sullivan’s conviction for driving while his license or privilege to drive was revoked was improper because Sullivan was not privileged to drive in Maryland.” Id. at 502-503.

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