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Raymond Scott Peck v. State of Idaho

April 30, 2012

RAYMOND SCOTT PECK,
PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bonner County. Hon. Steven C. Verby, District Judge.

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

2012 Opinion No. 25

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Decision of the district court affirming administrative suspension of driver's license, affirmed.

Raymond Scott Peck appeals from the district court's decision on judicial review affirming the administrative order of the Idaho Transportation Department suspending Peck's driver's license. Specifically, Peck asserts several procedural and evidentiary errors in regards to the administrative hearing. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

A police officer stopped Peck on December 2, 2009, for speeding in an area within the city limits of Sandpoint, Idaho. The officer detected an odor of alcohol and other signs of alcohol use upon contact with Peck. Peck refused to participate in field sobriety tests, and thereafter, the officer arrested Peck on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). At the police station, after a fifteen-minute observation period, the officer administered a breathalyzer test to determine Peck's blood alcohol concentration (BAC test), which produced results of .089/xxx. Because of the invalid BAC test result on the second breath sample, Peck gave a second set of samples after another fifteen-minute observation period, producing results of .083/.086. Based on the second BAC test results showing a violation of Idaho Code § 18-8004, the officer issued Peck a notice of suspension of his driver's license and a temporary non-commercial driving permit. Peck was not operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the traffic stop, but held only a commercial driver's license (CDL). The CDL was seized pursuant to statute and as stated in the notice of suspension advisory form.

On December 8, 2009, Peck requested an administrative hearing on the proposed license suspension. The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) issued two letters on December 15, 2009: one noticing a hearing for December 29, 2009, and the second showing cause to set the hearing date outside of the standard twenty days from the date of request due to a scheduling conflict with the hearing officer. On December 18, 2009, the ITD issued two additional letters: one noticing the date of the hearing for December 9, 2009,*fn1 and the second showing cause to set the hearing outside of the standard twenty-day period due to a change in the assigned hearing officer. The telephonic hearing was conducted on December 29, 2009, in which Peck and his attorney participated. Peck asserted primarily five arguments to challenge the suspension:

(1) the hearing was not noticed or held according to statute; (2) he was not informed of the consequences of failing evidentiary testing for concentration of blood alcohol in accordance with due process; (3) the probable cause affidavit and test results supporting suspension facially lacked credibility; (4) the arresting officer lacked probable cause for the traffic stop; and (5) the BAC test results were not gathered in conformance with required testing procedures. The hearing officer rejected each of these arguments and sustained the suspension of Peck's license. Peck filed a petition for judicial review. Following briefing and oral argument, the district court affirmed the suspension. Thereafter, the district court allowed a rehearing on a motion to reconsider, but again affirmed. Peck timely appeals to this Court.

II.

DISCUSSION

The administrative license suspension (ALS) statute, Idaho Code § 18-8002A, requires that the 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 the ITD to contest the suspension. I.C. § 18-8002A(7). At the administrative hearing, the burden of proof rests upon the driver to prove any of the grounds to vacate the suspension. I.C. § 18-8002A(7); Kane v. 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 section 18-8002A(7) for vacating the suspension. Those grounds include:

(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 provisions of section 18-8004, 18-8004C or 18-8006, Idaho Code; or

(c) The test results did not show an alcohol concentration or the presence of drugs or other intoxicating substances in violation of section 18-8004, 18-8004C or 18-8006, Idaho Code; or

(d) The tests for alcohol concentration, drugs or other intoxicating substances administered at the direction of the pace officer were not conducted in accordance with the requirements of section 18-8004(4), Idaho Code, or the testing equipment was not functioning properly when the test was administered; or

(e) The person was not informed of the consequences of submitting to evidentiary testing as required in subsection (2) of this section.

I.C. § 18-8002A(7). The hearing officer's decision is subject to challenge through a petition for judicial review. I.C. § 18-8002A(8); Kane, 139 Idaho at 589, 83 P.3d at 133. 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 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 Cnty., 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.

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 Idaho Code § 67-5279(3) and that a substantial right of that party has been prejudiced. Price v. Payette Cnty. Bd. of Cnty. 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(2).

Peck reasserts his five challenges to the ITD's decision to suspend his driver's license:

(1) the administrative hearing was not noticed or held according to statute; (2) Peck was not informed of the consequences of failing evidentiary testing for concentration of blood alcohol in accordance with due process; (3) the evidence used to support the license suspension was not credible; (4) the arresting officer lacked probable cause for the traffic stop; ...


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