Bell v. Burson

402 U.S. 535 (1971)


Georgia's Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act provides that the motor vehicle registration and driver's license of an uninsured motorist involved in an accident shall be suspended unless he posts security to cover the amount of damages claimed by aggrieved parties in reports of the accident. An administrative hearing is conducted prior to the suspension and excludes consideration of the motorist's fault or liability for the accident. P was involved in an accident when five-year-old Sherry Capes rode her bicycle into the side of his automobile. The child's parents filed an accident report indicating that their daughter had suffered substantial injuries for which they claimed damages of $5,000. P was informed that unless he was covered by a liability insurance policy in effect at the time of the accident, he must file a bond or cash security deposit of $ 5,000 or present a notarized release from liability, plus proof of future financial responsibility, or suffer the suspension of his driver's license and vehicle registration. P requested an administrative hearing asserting that he was not liable as the accident was unavoidable. P was informed that only evidence of fault was applicable. The officer rejected P's proffer of evidence on liability and D ordered P to post the bond or have his license suspended. P appealed. The court permitted P to present his evidence on liability, and, although the claimants were neither parties nor witnesses, found P free from fault. This order was reversed by the Georgia Court of Appeals which was affirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.