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Alcohol Beverage Control v. Boyd

April 23, 2010


Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Clearwater County. Hon. John H. Bradbury, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Horton, Justice

2010 Opinion No. 42

The decision of the district court is reversed and the case is remanded

This is an appeal from a district court‟s order reversing an administrative hearing officer‟s decision to suspend Gordon Boyd‟s retail alcohol license. We reverse the decision of the district court.


The facts of this case are not in dispute. Between the late evening of September 15, 2006, and the early morning of September 16, 2006, two undercover Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) officers, Corporal Tim Davidson and Sergeant Greg Harris, who are trained to identify intoxicated people, arrived at the Shot Glass bar in Orofino, Idaho. Boyd is the owner and operator of the Shot Glass. Davidson and Harris observed an individual at the Shot Glass who was getting too close to people and being so loud and boisterous that people were moving away from him. The individual smelled of alcohol and had a flushed face, bloodshot eyes, and slurred speech, and was swaying, staggering, and stumbling into people and furniture and knocking things off the bar. After witnessing this behavior, Davidson and Harris further observed Dawn Moler, one of the Shot Glass bartenders, serve alcohol to the individual. Davidson and Harris identified the customer as Justin Anderson. Harris made contact with Anderson, who was argumentative and unable to comprehend Harris‟ questions. Davidson cited Moler for a misdemeanor violation of I.C. § 23-615 for serving an obviously intoxicated person.*fn1

Based upon the events described above, ABC filed administrative violation notice 06ABC-COM077, along with a complaint seeking suspension of Boyd‟s license under authority of I.C. § 23-933, alleging that I.C. § 23-615 was violated when Moler served alcohol to Anderson, who was obviously intoxicated.*fn2 Boyd moved to dismiss the complaint on grounds that I.C. § 23-615 is unconstitutionally vague and indefinite. The hearing officer declined to rule on the motion to dismiss because the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (IDAPA) precludes a hearing officer from determining the constitutionality of a statute.

A hearing was held on November 15, 2007, at which Moler testified that from her bartending experience she was very familiar with the way Anderson would act whenever he was intoxicated, including his taking on a "cocky attitude" and his failure to "walk normal." The hearing officer noted that although Moler testified that she did not believe Anderson to be intoxicated at the time she admittedly served him two beers, Harris and Davidson testified that they observed Anderson at the time Moler served him exhibiting the very characteristics that Moler described. The hearing officer also considered the testimony of Orofino Sheriff Deputy Carson, who observed that Anderson had bloodshot eyes and was belligerent towards Harris. The hearing officer concluded, based on the testimony of Moler, Davidson, Harris, and Carson, that Anderson was apparently or obviously intoxicated when Moler served him, and thus issued a preliminary order suspending Boyd‟s retail alcohol beverage license. Boyd did not seek agency review, and the order became final on December 18, 2007.

Boyd appealed to the district court and moved for a stay of the suspension, which the district court granted. The district court concluded that the hearing officer did not err in concluding that Anderson was obviously intoxicated when Moler served him, yet ultimately concluded that I.C. § 23-615 is facially unconstitutional for overbreadth and vagueness. The court reversed the hearing officer‟s decision and remanded the case. ABC timely appeals the district court‟s decision regarding the statute‟s constitutionality. Boyd does not challenge the district court‟s conclusion that substantial competent evidence supported the hearing officer‟s determination that Moler served alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person.


Generally, "[w]here a district court acts in its appellate capacity pursuant to the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (IDAPA), this Court reviews the agency record independently of the district court‟s decision." Cooper v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 134 Idaho 449, 454, 4 P.3d 561, 566 (2000) (citations omitted). In this case, however, the agency was unable to consider the constitutionality of the statute in question, because "[p]assing on the constitutionality of statutory enactments, even enactments with political overtones, is a fundamental responsibility of the judiciary, and has been so since Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137." Miles v. Idaho Power Co., 116 Idaho 635, 640, 778 P.2d 757, 762 (1989) (citations omitted). Therefore, we directly review the district court‟s decision regarding the constitutionality of I.C. § 23-615.

The constitutionality of a statute is a question of law. The party challenging a statute on constitutional grounds bears the burden of establishing the statute is unconstitutional and "must overcome a strong presumption of validity." Olsen v. J.A. Freeman Co., 117 Idaho 706, 709, 791 P.2d 1285, 1288 (1990).

This Court exercises free review over the trial court‟s conclusions of law to determine if the trial court correctly stated the principles of law and if the legal conclusions are supported by the facts as found. The Court is "free to draw its own conclusions from the facts presented." Kootenai Elec. Coop. v. Washington Water Power Co., 127 Idaho 432, 435, 901 P.2d 1333, 1336 (1995).

BHA Invs, Inc. v. State, 138 Idaho 348, 351, 63 P.3d 474, 477 (2003) (citations omitted). Appellate courts are obligated to seek an interpretation of a statute that upholds its constitutionality. State v. ...

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