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In the Matter of the Driver's License Suspension of Johnathan Paul Van Camp. v. Johnathan Paul Van Camp

November 14, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Kathryn Sticklen, Senior Judge.

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

2012 Opinion No. 128

Stephen Kenyon, Clerk

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

This appeal arises from the district court's reversal of the Idaho Transportation Department's (Department) suspension of Johnathan Paul Van Camp's driver's license subsequent to a urine analysis that revealed the presence of cyclobenzaprine in his system. The district court held that the Department had not properly shown that cyclobenzaprine is intoxicating. The Department timely appealed, arguing that the arresting officer's observations of impairment, in combination with an evidentiary test revealing a drug in Van Camp's system, were sufficient to permit an administrative license suspension. The Department asks this Court to reverse the district court's decision vacating the suspension. We reverse.


Van Camp was pulled over after making an illegal U-turn and subsequently arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. The officer observed several outward indicators of impairment in Van Camp: his speech was thick and slurred, his eyes were red and watery, his mouth appeared to be dry, and there was a visible white film in the corners of his mouth. According to the arresting officer, Van Camp also seemed confused and disoriented and was unable to find his wallet, registration, or proof of insurance. Van Camp told the officer that he recently had his wallet out to buy cigarettes and proceeded to look for the wallet for several minutes, repeatedly checking the empty glove box. When asked how much alcohol he had consumed, Van Camp replied "None." The officer asked Van Camp to exit the vehicle and perform the standardized field sobriety tests. Van Camp failed the gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one-leg stand tests. After the tests, the officer placed Van Camp under arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Van Camp submitted to a breath test, which did not show the presence of alcohol. Van Camp admitted to taking two prescription- only drugs, cyclobenzaprine and Seroquel. Van Camp provided a urine sample, which, upon testing, showed the presence of cyclobenzaprine.

After receiving the urine test results, the Department issued a Notice of Suspension, which ordered the suspension of Van Camp's driving privileges for ninety days. Van Camp then requested an administrative hearing pursuant to Idaho Code § 18-8002A. At the hearing, Van Camp argued that in order to violate § 18-8002A "[t]here needs to be some written certification or some other standard stating the drug is intoxicating." The hearing officer sustained the administrative license suspension, stating in his findings of fact that the observations by the officer of Van Camp's outward impairment coupled with the test that showed the presence of the drug cyclobenzaprine were enough to show a violation of § 18-8002A. The district court reversed the hearing officer's ruling and vacated the suspension on May 3, 2010. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the district court and this Court granted the Department's petition for review.


"When a case comes before this Court on a petition for review from a Court of Appeals decision, serious consideration is given to the views of the Court of Appeals, but this Court reviews the decision of the lower court directly." Hoffer v. City of Boise, 151 Idaho 400, 402, 257 P.3d 1226, 1228 (2011) (citing Kelly v. State, 149 Idaho 517, 521, 236 P.3d 1277, 1281 (2010)). When we review a district court's decision in an appeal from an agency action, "we review the decision of the district court to determine whether it correctly decided the issues presented to it." Elias-Cruz v. Idaho Dept. of Transp., 153 Idaho 200, ___, 280 P.3d 703, 705 (2012) (citing Wright v. Bd. of Psychological Examiners, 148 Idaho 542, 544-45, 224 P.3d 1131, 1133-34 (2010)). The interpretation of a statute is an issue of law over which this court exercises free review. Idaho Fair Share v. Idaho Pub. Util. Comm'n, 113 Idaho 959, 961-62, 751 P.2d 107, 109-10 (1988).


A. Van Camp failed to provide evidence sufficient to vacate the suspension.

Van Camp argues that when the Department suspends an individual's driver's license for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, it must first show that that the drug at issue is intoxicating. Van Camp thus contends that because the statute applies only after the Department meets this threshold burden, where the Department does not show that the drug is intoxicating, it may not suspend the individual's license.

Idaho Code ยง 18-8002A governs administrative driver's license suspensions for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs. The statute provides that the Department "shall suspend" a person's license ...

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