North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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REPLY TO: Thomas J. Ziko Education Section Telephone: (919) 716-6920 FAX: (919) 716-6764

October 14, 1999

Michael E. Ward State Superintendent of Public Instruction Education Building 301 N. Wilmington Street Raleigh, NC 27601-2825

Re: Advisory Opinion; Drivers Subject to Revocation of Driving Privileges Under G.S. § 20-13.2(c1).

Dear Superintendent Ward:

On March 25, 1999, you wrote to request this office’s opinion on the scope of the driving privilege revocation provisions of G.S. § 20-13.2(c1). That statute was enacted as Section 2 of 1997 N.C. Sess. Laws c. 507 entitled “An Act to Provide That Certain Students Who Drop out of School or Do Not Make Progress Toward Graduation Shall Not Be Eligible for Drivers Permits or Licenses.” That section of the Act amended G.S. § 20-13.2 to provide:

(c1) The Division [of Motor Vehicles] must revoke the permit or license of a person under the age of 18 if the proper school authority notifies the Division that the person no longer meets the requirements for a driving eligibility certificate under G.S. 20-11(n). Notwithstanding subsection (d) of this section, the length of revocation must last until the person's eighteenth birthday or until the Division restores the permit or license under this subsection. The Division must restore a person's permit or license before the person's eighteenth birthday, if the person submits to the Division one of the following:

(1)
A high school diploma or its equivalent.
(2)
A driving eligibility certificate as required under G.S. 20-11(n).

Notwithstanding any other law, the decision concerning whether a driving eligibility certificate was properly issued or improperly denied shall be appealed only as provided under the rules adopted in accordance with G.S. 115C-12(27), G.S. 115D-5(a3), or G.S. 115C-566, whichever is applicable, and may not be appealed under this Chapter [20 of the General Statutes].

G.S. § 20-11(n), referred to in Section 2 of the Act, was included in Section 1 of the Act. Section 1 provides:

Driving Eligibility Certificate.--A person who desires to obtain a permit or license issued under this section and who does not have a high school diploma or its equivalent must have a driving eligibility certificate. A driving eligibility certificate must meet the following conditions:

(1)
The person who is required to sign the certificate under subdivision (4) of this subsection must show that he or she has determined that one of the following requirements is met:
a.
The person is currently enrolled in school and is making progress toward obtaining a high school diploma or its equivalent.
b.
A substantial hardship would be placed on the person or the person's family if the person does not receive a certificate.
c.
The person cannot make progress toward obtaining a high school diploma or its equivalent.
(2)
It must be on a form approved by the Division.
(3)
It must be dated within 30 days of the date the person applies for a permit or license issuable under this section.
(4)
It must be signed by the applicable person named below:
a.
The principal, or the principal's designee, of the public school in which the person is enrolled.
b.
The administrator, or the administrator's designee, of the nonpublic school in which the person is enrolled.
c.
The person who provides the academic instruction in the home school in which the person is enrolled.
d.
The designee of the board of directors of the charter school in which the person is enrolled.
e.
The president, or the president's designee, of the community college in which the person is enrolled.

Notwithstanding any other law, the decision concerning whether a driving eligibility certificate was properly issued or improperly denied shall be appealed only as provided under the rules adopted in accordance with G.S. 115C-12(27),

G.S. 115D-5(a3), or G.S. 115C-566, whichever is applicable, and may not be appealed under this Chapter.

The effective dates for the Act were set out in Section 10 which provides:

Sections 1 and 2 of this act become effective August 1, 1998. The remainder of this act is effective when it becomes law. Sections 1 and 2 of this act do not apply to any person who holds a valid North Carolina limited learner's permit issued before December 1, 1997, who holds a valid North Carolina learner's permit issued before December 1, 1997, or who is a provisional licensee and holds a valid North Carolina drivers license issued before December 1, 1997.

It is our understanding that no funds were allocated to the affected governmental agencies to implement this legislation. In practice, the local education administrative units (LEAs) are primarily responsible for administering the revocation process. First, an LEA identifies those students who fail to meet the statutory requirements for continued driving privileges. Utilizing an access code provided by DMV, the LEA then enters the pertinent information directly into DMV’s computer records. The computer then generates a notice of revocation of driving privileges and DMV mails the notice to the affected student. Any appeal from the revocation lies to the LEA that entered the information in the DMV records.

As you note in your letter, the effective dates of the Act created three distinct groups of drivers under the age of 18:

Group A: Drivers who received driving privileges before December 1, 1997;
Group B: Drivers who received driving privileges after November 30,
1997 but before August 1, 1998; and
Group C: Drivers who receive driving privileges after July 31, 1998.

You have asked for this office’s opinion as to how the Act is to be applied to each of these groups.

The cardinal rule of statutory construction is that legislation must be construed to accomplish the General Assembly's intent. Sutton v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., 325 N.C. 259, 265, 280 S.E.2d 759 (1989). The best indicia of legislative intention are the language of the statute, its spirit and purpose. Savings and Loan League v. Credit Union Comm., 302 N.C. 458, 276 S.E.2d 404 (1981). When interpreting statutes, the words in the statute are to be given their ordinary meaning unless the General Assembly has specifically defined them or they have an acquired technical meaning. Food Town Stores v. City of Salisbury, 300 N.C. 21, 265 S.E.2d 123 (1980).

Applying those rules to your inquiry, one can plainly discern the legislative intent with regard to Group A and Group C. Section 10 specifically states that Group A, i.e., persons under 18 years of age who held a valid driving privilege, whether a limited learner’s permit, a learner’s permit or a license, issued before December 1, 1997, are not required to secure driver eligibility certificates under Section 1 of the Act and are not subject to revocation of their present or future driving privileges under Section 2 of the Act, G.S. § 20-13.2. It is equally clear that under Section 10 of the Act Group C, i.e., persons under 18 years of age who had no driving privileges before August 1, 1998, must present a valid driver eligibility certificate before they can receive any driving privilege and that privilege and any subsequent privilege is subject to revocation under Section 2 of the Act, G.S. § 20-13.2(c1), until they reach the age of 18.

The legislative intent regarding the applicability of the Act to Group B is less clear. Unlike drivers who received driving privileges before December 1, 1997, they are not exempt under Section 10 of the Act. However, the driver eligibility requirement established in Section 1 of the Act could not apply to Group B drivers because they received their driving privileges prior to the August 1, 1998, effective date of the Act. Therefore, the question is: Did the General Assembly intend to require DMV to revoke the licenses of drivers who were not required to present a driver eligibility certificate in order to receive their driving privileges?

G.S. § 20-13.2(c1) states in pertinent part that, “[t]he Division must revoke the permit or license of a person under the age of 18 if the proper school authority notifies the Division that the person no longer meets the requirements for a driving eligibility certificate under G.S. 20-11(n).” (Emphasis added). The requirement to revoke the licenses of persons who “no longer” meet the requirements for a driving eligibility certificate implies that the person’s receipt of those privileges was initially conditioned on meeting those requirements. Therefore, it is our opinion that the legislature did not intend LEAs to notify DMV to revoke the driving privileges of Group B drivers who have not had a change in driving privilege status after July 31, 1998. Consequently, LEAs should not enter data regarding such drivers into the DMV computer system.

This does not mean, however, that Group B drivers are forever exempt from G.S. § 2013.2(c1). If a person in Group B has a change in driving status after July 31, 1998, he must present a driver eligibility certificate to DMV in order to receive the new driving privilege. When a Group B driver receives a driving privilege that is dependent on a driver eligibility certificate, he moves from Group B to Group C. Thereafter, as long as he is under 18 years of age, his privilege may be revoked under G.S. § 20-13.2(c1) if he “no longer meets the requirements for a driving eligibility certificate.”

Very truly yours,

Reginald L. Watkins Senior Deputy Attorney General

Hal Askins Special Deputy Attorney General

Thomas J. Ziko Special Deputy Attorney General

cc: Janice Faulkner Brad Sneeden June Atkinson Artie Kayima Allison Schafer