Opportunity for a Hearing Prior to Revocation of Driver's License
Appellant must be provided the opportunity for a hearing prior to the revocation of his driver's license. Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 29 L. Ed. 2d 90, 91 S. Ct. 1586 (1971).
The foregoing requirement applies to a revocation pursuant to 2733 (d). Carter v. Department of Public Safety.
However, unlike a hearing pursuant to 21 Del.C., 2742 (f), which does not rely on a prior conviction, neither the scope of the hearing nor the issues to be determined are specifically designated by the language of 2733 (d).
2 21 Del. c. 2733 (d) reads as follows:
(d) the Department may suspend or revoke the license of any resident of this State upon receiving notice of the conviction of such person in another state of an offense therein which, if committed in this State, would be grounds for the suspension or revocation of the license of an operator or chauffeur.
The Department may, upon receiving a record of the conviction in this State of a nonresident driver of a motor vehicle of any offense under the motor vehicle laws of this State, forward a certified copy of such record to the Motor Vehicle Administrator in the state wherein the person so convicted is a resident.
Furthermore, although the hearing must be meaningful, i.e. appropriate to the nature of the case and not exclude any element essential to the decision, Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. at 541-42, the judicial model of an evidentiary hearing is neither the required nor the most effective method of administrative decision making in all circumstances. Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 322, 47 L. Ed. 2d 18, 96 S. Ct. 893 (1976).
Finally, where the nature of the private interest is a driver's license and the revocation follows from a conviction, neither the interest nor the risk of an erroneous deprivation are so great as to "require" in all cases an evidentiary hearing prior to administrative action. Cf. Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105, 113, 52 L. Ed. 2d 172, 97 S. Ct. 1723 (1977), citing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. at 343.
In determining whether the Division of Motor Vehicles has provided Appellant with constitutionally adequate procedures for the revocation of his driver's license, we must first inquire into the significance of Counsel's refusal to permit Appellant to answer for the record the above referred to questions of the Hearing Officer.
Proceedings for the revocation of driver's licenses of persons who threaten the safety of the public are not criminal proceedings. Witsch Motor Vehicle Operator's License Case, Pa. Super., 194 Pa. Super. 384, 168 A.2d 772, 775 (1961).
Such proceedings have been consistently characterized as civil administrative proceedings. State v. Kamalski, Del.Super., 429 A.2d 1315, 1318 (1981, Stiftel, J.) the purpose of these statutes and proceedings "is not to punish, but to protect the public from those who have demonstrated that there driving presents a hazard to life and property." Broughton v. Warren, Del. Ch., 281 A.2d 625, 629 (1971).
Moreover, it is a general principle of civil and administrative procedure that the lack of a responsive pleading, when required, results in the admission of factual averments. Cf. 60 C.J.S., "Motions and Orders," 20; Michener v. Montgomery County Tax Claim Bureau, Pa. Cmwlth., 671 A.2d 285 (1996).
In other words, allegations, averments, facts or requests for admission which a party fails to deny or place in issue are deemed admitted.
See Court of Common Pleas Civil Rules 8 (d) and 36 (a). 8A Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil: 1261 sets forth this principle as follows:
A failure to deny an allegation when a responsive pleading is required results in it being treated as admitted according to Rule 8(d)...The theory of Rules 8(b) and 8(d) is that a defendant's pleading should apprise the opponent of the allegations in the complaint that stand admitted and will not be in issue at trial and those that are contested and will require proof to be established to enable plaintiff to prevail.
The theory of the civil rules of procedure is that if a point is conceded, a party should not incur expense in presenting evidence to prove it. Id. 2252.
In civil proceedings, "a request for admission is not objectionable on the grounds that the requesting party already knows the fact.... Nor is it a ground for objection that the request relates to matters on which the requesting party has the burden of proof." Id. 2254.
Finally, "... a party may not object to a request for admission on the ground that it presents a genuine issue for trial.
The party is required to either deny the matter or set forth the reasons why it cannot either admit or deny it.
An answer, rather than an objection, is ... the only proper response if a party considers that it has been asked to admit something that it disputes." Id. 2256.