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Kevin D. Bowen v. State of Wyoming

January 4, 2011

KEVIN D. BOWEN, APPELLANT (PETITIONER),
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLEE (RESPONDENT).



Appeal from the District Court of Goshen County The Honorable Keith G. Kautz, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt , Justice .

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] In this appeal we review a determination by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to uphold the suspension of Kevin D. Bowen's (the appellant) driver's license. The only question presented to the OAH was whether the appellant's breath test results were legally obtained, and thus admissible. In finding that the suspension was proper, the OAH relied on a previous decision in the appellant's companion criminal case wherein the circuit court found that the breath test results were legally obtained. We find, under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, that the OAH's decision should be affirmed.

ISSUE

[¶2] Was the appellant collaterally estopped from relitigating the question of the admissibility of his breath test results in his administrative license suspension hearing after the circuit court had already decided that issue against him in a criminal proceeding?

FACTS

[¶3] The facts in this matter are undisputed. On January 8, 2009, a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper stopped the appellant after observing the appellant's vehicle traveling approximately 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. The trooper observed signs of impairment and the appellant admitted to consuming alcohol prior to driving. Additionally, the appellant's performance in the field sobriety tests indicated that he was impaired and a portable breath test administered at the site registered a 0.13% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The appellant was then arrested and transported to the detention facility where he again agreed to a breath test, which test revealed a 0.137% BAC.

[¶4] The appellant's drunken driving resulted in both a criminal prosecution for driving while under the influence of alcohol in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-233(b) (LexisNexis 2007), and an administrative license suspension proceeding, as mandated by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-6-102 (LexisNexis 2007). In the criminal case, the appellant moved to suppress the breathalyzer evidence, alleging that the trooper performing the test was not properly trained on the device used to administer it. *fn1 The appellant's motion was heard and denied by a decision letter, issued April 22, 2009. The appellant entered a conditional guilty plea and Judgment and Sentence was entered on June 9, 2009.

[¶5] In the administrative proceeding, after the appellant was notified of and objected to the suspension of his license, the OAH held a contested case hearing on March 30, 2009. At that hearing, the appellant took the same position he had taken in the criminal case: the trooper was not properly trained on the breathalyzer device and thus the suspension was improper. Relying upon the circuit court's previous finding in the criminal case that the trooper was properly certified to operate the device, the OAH upheld the suspension on May 14, 2009.

[¶6] The appellant sought review of both the OAH decision and the Judgment and Sentence in the criminal matter. After briefing by both parties, the district court entered its decision and order on appeal affirming the decisions in both the criminal and administrative proceedings. The appellant timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶7] When considering an appeal from a district court's review of an administrative agency's action, we give "no special deference to the district court's decision," but instead review the case as if it had come directly from the administrative agency. Dale v. S & S Builders, LLC , 2008 WY 84, ¶ 8, 188 P.3d 554, 557 (Wyo. 2008). Our review of an administrative agency's action is governed by ...


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