rules of the road

DMV Took Away a Brooklyn Man’s License — 18 Years After His Last DWI

Drivers head north along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
Drivers head north along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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Some 18 years after his last DWI, state officials took away Giuseppe Mancuso’s driver’s license.

Now the 51-year-old Bensonhurst man is suing the New York Department of Motor Vehicles in Brooklyn Supreme Court in a case that raises issues — even for Mothers Against Drunk Driving — about regulations that mandate permanently pulling licenses of repeat offenders.

Mancuso racked up his first alcohol-related offense in May 1990, earned four more in 1992, and logged a final infraction in August 2000, court papers show.

Since then, Mancuso said in court documents, he went through rehabilitation to “improve his life and to become a safer and more responsible driver.”

Mancuso got his license back in May 2003 and the DMV renewed it eight years later.

But by the time of his latest renewal, on Oct. 12, 2018, the DMV had implemented new regulations allowing it to purge more drivers for past offenses.

Just over a month later, the DMV “revoked Mr. Mancuso‘s driver‘s license on the grounds that he was a lifetime repeat alcohol offender,” according to the suit.

Spinning His Wheels

The DMV didn’t tell Manscuso his license had been taken away — he found out in March from his car insurance company, according to his lawsuit.

His application for a new license was denied, as was a subsequent appeal.

Since then, he’s had to turn down job offers, and commutes more than five hours a day to get to and from work, according to court filings.

A DMV spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit. Mancuso’s attorney, Vasilios Georgiou, didn’t return phone calls and emails requesting comment.

The issue dates to September 2012, when the DMV increased the penalties for drivers who recorded three or more impaired driving convictions in the past 25 years.

Applicants with three or four alcohol- or drug-related driving “convictions or incidents” within the preceding 25 years are now denied renewals for five years, in addition to whatever amount of time is mandated by the court.

Five or more convictions — crossing the line into what the DMV calls a “persistently dangerous driver” —  leads to permanent denial.

Within three years of the policy’s implementation, the state had permanently banned at least 3,942 drivers and suspended 3,579 drivers, according to a 2015 New York Post report.

The DMV did not provide THE CITY with updated data.

Calls to Reconsider

When informed about Mancuso’s case, defense attorneys and even safe-driving advocates said the DMV should reconsider its decision.

“Lifetime license revocations in non-injury cases for drunk drivers is literally burying your head in the sand and saying, ‘We’re taking away your license even though you’re a repeat offender and you’re probably going to continue to drive. Good luck not getting caught,’” said Frank Harris, the director of state government affairs for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Instead, Harris said, the state should focus on employing laws such as the decade-old Child Passenger Protection Act, which, he says, isn’t effectively enforced. The law mandates that an ignition interlock device be installed for an offender for at least six months after sentencing.

Attorney Dennis Nave, who specializes in DWI cases, said that drivers in Mancuso’s position have little chance of getting their license back without reopening past offenses in a bid to get them removed.

Nave described an instance in which a past client of his was caring for her 90-year-old mother, had cancer herself, lived alone and was looking for a job.

“The DMV said, ‘Nope, denied,’” recalled Nave, a managing partner at the Albany-based Nave Law Firm.

Nave said he believed the DMV should cut Mancuso a break.

“[If] he’s provided proof that he’s been sober for so long, it sounds like it should be the exception where they give him a restricted license with an ignition interlock device and they won’t have to worry about him drinking and driving again,” he said.

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