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Rebecca S. Wilkinson v. State of Idaho

November 17, 2011

REBECCA S. WILKINSON,
PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Blaine County. Hon. Robert J. Elgee, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwartzman, Judge Pro Tem

2011 Opinion No. 69 Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Order of district court affirming decision of hearing officer suspending driver's license, affirmed.

Rebecca S. Wilkinson appeals from the district court's order affirming the Idaho Transportation Department's suspension of her driver's license. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

On October 11, 2009, Police Officer Garth Davis arrested Wilkinson for driving under the influence of alcohol and transported her to the Blaine County Public Safety Building. Wilkinson agreed to submit to a breath test to determine her blood alcohol concentration. She was taken to a small room, informally known as the "intox room," to have the tests conducted. The test results indicated a BAC of .165 and .151, respectively, and Wilkinson was charged with driving under the influence (DUI). Pursuant to Idaho Code §§ 18-8002 and 18-8002A, Officer Davis also served Wilkinson with a notice of suspension of her driver's license.

Wilkinson, through counsel, requested a hearing with the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) relative to the administrative suspension of her driver's license. There were two hearings held, the first one on December 1, 2009, which Officer Davis was unable to attend. At the hearing, Wilkinson argued that her license suspension should be vacated because Officer Davis did not comply with the fifteen-minute monitoring period requirement prior to the administration of the breath tests. The hearing officer sustained the suspension of Wilkinson's driving privileges, and in response, Wilkinson filed a request for reconsideration. Another hearing was held on January 26, 2010, before the same hearing officer, at which Officer Davis testified. Thereafter, the hearing officer once again sustained the suspension of Wilkinson's driving privileges.

Wilkinson then filed a petition for judicial review. The district court affirmed her license suspension. Wilkinson timely appeals the district court's order.

II. DISCUSSION

The Idaho Administrative Procedures Act (IDAPA) governs the review of ITD 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 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, P.3d 738, 742 (2000); Marshall, 137 Idaho at 340, 48 P.3d at 669.

The 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 administrative license suspension (ALS) statute, I.C. § 18-8002A, requires that ITD suspend the driver's license of a driver who has failed a BAC test administered by a law enforcement officer. The period of suspension is ninety days for a driver's first failure of an evidentiary test and one year for any subsequent test failure within five years. I.C. § 18- 8002A(4)(a). A person who has been notified of an ALS may request a hearing before a hearing officer designated by ITD to contest the suspension. I.C. § 18-8002A(7); Kane v. State, Dep't of Transp., 139 Idaho 586, 590, 83 P.3d 130, 134 (Ct. App. 2003). 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) for vacating the suspension. Those grounds are:

(a) The peace officer did not have legal cause to stop the person; or

(b) The officer did not have legal cause to believe the person had been driving or was in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances in violation of the ...


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