Legal Q regarding state law versus constition


Here in Louisiana, around 2012-2013, I was late on my car insurance a few times. I always paid it, and the company was always able to continue my policy without lapse.

However, they were also required to notify the state each time. Years later I discovered that I owed the state over $2,000 to get my license reinstated, and even though I could produce a letter from Geico stating that there had never been a lapse, I had no recourse, because I didn’t reply to the state in time.

I ended up paying the two grand, but I’m convinced it is unconstitutional.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I don’t really know the Louisiana state constitution, but in general, if a law is unconstitutional, it’s unenforceable. The constitution trumps statue.

Seems like Geico is at fault, they have a poor record in this sort of thing. Contact a lawyer. Or your states insurance commission.

Which part of the constitution do you think it violates? Unconstitutional is not another way of saying wrong.

Most of the constitution is not applicable, because you weren’t charged with a crime and the state did not punish you for anything, and you weren’t engaged in some political activity. Most of the constitution is concerned with protecting your rights to participate in choosing your representatives, and with protecting you against the state abusing its police powers to punish you for crimes. In this case, the state simply made you fork over a huge pile of money to regain a license to drive a car on public roads, which the states generally regard as something they are free to issue or not, as they please, for whatever reasons they choose.

That is, you do *not * have a natural right to travel on public roads in a powered vehicle, so the state doesn’t consider denying you a license a form of punishment or restriction – it’s just a denial of a privilege to which you have no natural right. At least, that’s the state’s point of view. And since it has nothing to do with politics, there’s no issue of restricting your ability to participate in republican government.

The parts of the constitution that seem most likely to be applicable are the equal protection bits. The state is supposed to treat all its citizens equally. If you could show that the state preferentially made people like you pay $2,000 to get their license, while other people who were in identical situations did not have to, then you might have an equal-protection argument. It would be much easier if the distinction was one of the already-recognized categories, meaning if you are black and the state routinely makes black people pay $2,000 to get their licenses back while white people in identical situations don’t have to, then you’ve got a good case. Same probably if you are a woman and the state doesn’t do this to men.

The main problem with this approach is that you need to show the state discriminated against you for reasons wholly unconnected to the situation at hand. It’s 100% constitutional for the state to discriminate (in giving out driver’s licenses) against people who space out paying their insurance on time, or who drive certain cars, or who have certain kinds of records driving, or who have certain disabilities (e.g. they’re blind), because these are all related to the state’s purpose for licensing driving (ensuring public safety on the roads). Such discrimination may or may not be a good idea, but it’s not unconstitutional for a law to be stupid or pointless or unkind. (The remedy for those laws is to elect different legislators who write different laws.) What you’d need to find is a reason the state discriminated against you that had nothing at all to do with public road safety, e.g. that you’re a Methodist, a vegan, or really dig the Grateful Dead.

Legal advice is best suited to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator