Court: State may strip driver’s license of people delinquent on child support

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned a District Court ruling that suspending driver’s licenses of people who don’t pay child support is unconstitutional.

The court ruled today in the case of Bruce Buchmann, a Swift County man, who claimed he can’t get a job driving a truck because his commercial license was suspended. At the time, he was more than $27,000 in arrears, and hasn’t made any of the $200-a-month child-support payments since 2009.

He has had his license suspended and made agreements to pay the support several times, but each time he balked at paying for the children.

Last summer, a District Court declared the state statute prohibiting the issuing of a limited commercial driver’s license unconstitutional, calling it “wholly irrational.” The court also said the law’s effect on people in rural Minnesota is considerably more harmful than for those in urban areas because there are fewer employers and public transportation is rarely available.

Today, the Court of Appeals rejected both points.

“The United States Supreme Court has never held that the right to pursue a particular profession, such as commercial truck driving, is a fundamental right,” Judge John Rodenberg wrote. “The statute provides a rational connection between the prohibition on limited commercial driver’s licenses and the public’s interest in having respondent support his children’s well-being through child support payments.”

Under the statute, officials can suspend a driver’s license of anyone who is three months behind in child-support payments.

The three-judge panel also rejected the claim that the statute unfairly targets people in rural Minnesota.

An urban obligor who lives very near a bus line may experience less impact upon suspension of his or her driver’s license than one who lives remotely from a bus line. A rural obligor who lives with or near family may have an easier time arranging a ride to work than one who lives remotely from family. Some rural Minnesotans probably have less difficulty arranging for transportation in the absence of a driver’s license than some urbanites. Once subject to license suspension under the statute, a rural obligor has the same options for license reinstatement as an urban obligor.

Here’s the full decision.