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Legislative Memo: Making Graffiti

This proposed legislation authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend or refuse to issue a driver’s license to persons under twenty-one years of age who have been convicted of making graffiti.

The Constitution requires that a penalty imposed by the government must have a rational relationship to the offense committed. The blanket denial of licensing privileges for activities that are not related to the safe operation of a vehicle constitutes arbitrary and unreasonable government action.

Motor vehicle licenses are issued based upon an individual’s knowledge of the rules of the road, and upon that individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, to impose sanctions upon a driver who operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and thereby endangers the community. However, imposing the same sanctions upon a person whose conduct has no relation to his or her ability to drive is not constitutionally permissible.

This bill also incorporates a double standard in the manner in which the law is applied. The bill proscribes one type of conduct – making graffiti – but upon conviction for such conduct, applies a harsher penalty against those who have a driver’s license than is applied against those without a driver’s license. Penalties should be applied uniformly; they should not be applied based upon an arbitrary status that has nothing to do with the proscribed conduct.

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