Asked in Consumer Law and Gov & Administrative Law for Maryland

Q: Mva said I can't renew my license without REAL ID. To me MD 16-122 says something different. Can you please clarify?

I have spoken with different people at MVA and no one can can give me a straight answer. I have told them repeatedly that 16-122 (ii) that states I am eligible for a Federally Non-Compliant drivers license. A contact told me RUDELY to look at case law Motor Vehicle Administration v. Geppert. That case doesn't apply to REAL ID. I would like to speak with an attorney and see if I have a case against MVA . I have messaged the MD Secretary of Transportation office twice with no response.

Another person said that a non compliant license is only available to immigrants. I don't wish to provide all the extra paperwork to obtain a REAL ID and I'm not interested in flying or accessing a nuclear power plant or a federally controlled facility. I have read the Real ID act and it says that states are allowed to offer a drivers license without the REAL ID verification. I'm aware of other states that will allow this. DHS doesnt require it. So is it just MD?

Thank you

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Regarding REAL ID and driver's licenses in Maryland:

- The federal REAL ID Act requires states to meet certain security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards in order for them to be accepted for certain federal purposes, like boarding commercial aircraft. However, the Act allows states to also issue non-compliant licenses and IDs.

- Maryland Transportation Code § 16-122 does state that the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) shall issue a driver's license to an applicant who meets the listed criteria, even if they don't have all the documents required for a REAL ID. Subsection (ii) specifies this can be a "driver's license that is not acceptable by federal agencies for official purposes."

- However, while this statute seems to require the MVA to offer a non-compliant license option, in practice the MVA has taken the position that the REAL ID is now the only driver's license they issue. They are likely interpreting the law to give them discretion in this matter.

- The court case you mentioned, MVA v. Geppert, dealt with documentation requirements for driver's licenses pre-REAL ID, so you're correct that it's not directly on point. But it shows that courts often defer to the MVA's interpretation of statutes it enforces.

- Some other states do offer both REAL ID compliant and non-compliant licenses. But each state has discretion in how to implement the REAL ID Act.

So in summary, while a strict reading of the Maryland statute seems to support your position, the MVA appears to be interpreting it differently in practice. Consulting with a Maryland attorney who specializes in administrative law would be the best way to assess potential legal recourse. In the meantime, escalating your complaint to higher-level MVA officials or your state representatives may be avenues to pursue a resolution. I can understand your frustration with the inconsistent information you've been provided.

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