Lose your license and lose some ATV rights, Justices rule

By Steve Korris | Jun 22, 2007


CHARLESTON- Drivers of all terrain vehicles don't need driver's licenses to run on road shoulders, but according to the Supreme Court of Appeals those who lose driver's licenses lose the right to run ATVs on shoulders.

The Justices unanimously reinstated a Roane County felony indictment against ATV driver Robert Sarver, a two-time license offender.

On June 6 they granted a writ prohibiting Circuit Judge David Nibert from carrying out a 2005 order dismissing the indictment.

The Justices favored prosecuting attorney Mark Sergent, who represented himself at oral arguments May 9.

Police arrested Sarver April 28, 2004, on a public highway.

Four weeks later, new state law took effect allowing ATVs to run up to 10 miles on highway shoulders to get from one trail or field to another.

The law provided that anyone in compliance with it did not need a license.

In 2005, a grand jury indicted Sarver on a charge of driving on a license that was revoked for driving under influence of alcohol, third offense.

Public defender Teresa Monk of Spencer moved to clarify. She argued that the new law specifically negated the need for a license.

Nibert compared the law on driver's licenses to the law on ATVs, and he dismissed the indictment.

Sergent asked the Supreme Court of Appeals for a writ of prohibition. He argued that the law prohibits an individual with a suspended or revoked license from operating any motor vehicle.

By definition, Sergent argued, that included ATVs.

The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles filed a brief in support of Sergent, as friend of the Court.

The DMV stated, "It is neither logical nor in the interests of the public that a person whose privilege to drive is revoked for DUI should be allowed to drive an ATV on a public roadway."

Sergent and the DMV won, hands down. Justice Joseph Albright wrote, "…the reasoning advanced by Mr. Sarver does not withstand scrutiny."

Albright wrote that Sarver omitted part of the statute he relied on.

"Mr. Sarver suggests an expansive use of the statutory language that was not intended by the Legislature," he wrote.

Albright wrote that when the state suspends or revokes a license, the individual loses both the license and the privilege to operate a motor vehicle on the public highways of the state.

"With the revocation of his operator's license, Mr. Sarver lost his privilege to operate any motor vehicle, which includes an all terrain vehicle, on the public highways of this state," He wrote. "While there are obvious reasons why the Legislature would exclude all terrain vehicle operators from compliance with both licensing and road usage laws, there is no countervailing argument for shielding an operator of an all terrain vehicle from prosecution for driving a motor vehicle while his or her operator's license has been suspended or revoked.

"In fact, the opposite is true."

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