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In the Matter of the Driver's License Suspension of: Gale Lee v. Idaho Department of Transportation

December 20, 2010


Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Benewah County. Hon. Fred M. Gibler, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Melanson, Judge

2010 Opinion No. 88

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Decision of the district court, affirming administrative order suspending driver's license after failing a blood alcohol concentration test, reversed.

Gale Lee Masterson appeals from the district court's decision upon judicial review affirming the Idaho Transportation Department's order suspending Masterson's driver's license for failing a blood alcohol concentration test. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse the district court's decision and vacate the order suspending Masterson's driver's license.


Masterson failed field sobriety tests after being stopped by an officer who suspected Masterson was driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The arresting officer administered an alcohol concentration breath test using the Intoxilyzer 5000EN. The breath test revealed that Masterson's blood alcohol concentration was .197/.184 in violation of I.C. § 18-8004(1)(a).

Masterson's driver's license was immediately suspended for ninety days pursuant to I.C. § 18-8002A(4)(a)(i). Masterson requested an administrative license suspension (ALS) hearing before the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), pursuant to I.C. § 18-8002A(7), contesting the suspension of his driver's license. The ALS hearing officer upheld the suspension. Masterson appealed the ALS hearing officer's decision to the district court. The district court affirmed the ALS hearing officer's order suspending Masterson's driver's license. Masterson again appeals.


An ITD administrative hearing officer's decision to uphold the suspension of a person's driver's license is subject to challenge through a petition for judicial review. I.C. § 18-8002A(8); Kane v. State, Dep't of Transp., 139 Idaho 586, 589, 83 P.3d 130, 133 (Ct. App. 2003). The Idaho Administrative Procedures Act (IDAPA) governs the judicial review of Department of Transportation decisions to deny, cancel, suspend, disqualify, revoke, or restrict a person's driver's license. See I.C. §§ 49-201, 49-330, 67-5201(2), 67-5270. In an appeal from the decision of the district court acting in its appellate capacity under the IDAPA, this Court reviews the agency record independently of the district court's decision. Marshall v. Idaho Dep't of Transp., 137 Idaho 337, 340, 48 P.3d 666, 669 (Ct. App. 2002).This Court does not substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence presented. I.C. § 67-5279(1); Marshall, 137 Idaho at 340, 48 P.3d at 669. This Court instead defers to the agency's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. Castaneda v. Brighton Corp., 130 Idaho 923, 926, 950 P.2d 1262, 1265 (1998); Marshall, 137 Idaho at 340, 48 P.3d at 669. In other words, the agency's factual determinations are binding on the reviewing court, even where there is conflicting evidence before the agency, so long as the determinations are supported by substantial and competent evidence in the record. Urrutia v. Blaine County, ex rel. Bd. of Comm'rs, 134 Idaho 353, 357, 2 P.3d 738, 742 (2000); Marshall, 137 Idaho at 340, 48 P.3d at 669. Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion. Kinney v. Tupperware Co., 117 Idaho 765, 769, 792 P.2d 330, 334 (1990). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Id. This Court may overturn an agency's decision where its findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions:

(a) violate statutory or constitutional provisions; (b) exceed the agency's statutory authority; (c) are made upon unlawful procedure; (d) are not supported by substantial evidence in the record; or (e) are arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. I.C. § 67-5279(3). The party challenging the agency decision must demonstrate that the agency erred in a manner specified in

I.C. § 67-5279(3) and that a substantial right of that party has been prejudiced. Price v. Payette County Bd. of County Comm'rs, 131 Idaho 426, 429, 958 P.2d 583, 586 (1998); Marshall, 137 Idaho at 340, 48 P.3d at 669. If the agency's decision is not affirmed on appeal, "it shall be set aside . . . and remanded for further proceedings as necessary." I.C. § 67-5279(3).

The ALS statute, I.C. § 18-8002A, requires that the ITD suspend the driver's license of a driver who has failed a blood alcohol concentration test administered by a law enforcement officer. A person who has been notified of such an administrative license suspension may request a hearing before a hearing officer designated by the ITD to contest the suspension. I.C. § 18-8002A(7). The hearing officer must uphold the suspension unless he or she finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the driver has shown one of several grounds, enumerated in I.C. § 18-8002A(7)(a)-(e), for vacating the suspension. The burden of proof rests upon the driver to prove any of the grounds to vacate the suspension. I.C. § 18-8002A(7); Kane, 139 Idaho at 590, 83 P.3d at 134. Once the driver has made an initial prima facie showing of evidence proving some basis for vacating the suspension, the burden shifts to the state to rebut the evidence presented by the driver. See Kane, 139 Idaho at 590, 83 P.3d at 134.

A license suspension may be vacated if the tests for alcohol concentration "administered at the direction of the peace officer were not conducted in accordance with the requirements" of I.C. § 18-8004(4). I.C. § 18-8002A(7)(d). Pursuant to I.C. § 18-8004(4), the Idaho State Police (ISP) is charged with promulgating standards for administering breath alcohol tests. The ISP has issued IDAPA regulations covering the requirements for the performance of a breath test and providing, in pertinent part, that "each individual operator shall demonstrate that he has sufficient training to operate the [breath test] instrument correctly. This shall be accomplished by successfully completing a training course approved by the department." IDAPA The ISP has also issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) establishing procedures for the maintenance and operation of breath test equipment, including the Intoxilyzer 5000.*fn1 In re Mahurin, 140 Idaho 656, 659, 99 P.3d 125, 127 (Ct. App. 2004). The SOP provide that breath alcohol tests "must be administered by an operator currently certified in the use of the specific model of instrument used." SOP Noncompliance with the ISP procedures is a ground for vacating an administrative license suspension under I.C. ยง 18-8002A(7)(d). In re Mahurin, 140 Idaho at 659-60, 99 P.3d at ...

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