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State of Wyoming, Department of Transportation v. James T. Robbins

February 10, 2011

STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
JAMES T. ROBBINS, APPELLEE (COMPLAINANT).



Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge S-10-0048

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hill, 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.

[¶ ] The State of Wyoming challenges the district court's finding that the standard of clear and convincing evidence was required to uphold a commercial driver's license disqualification, rather than a standard of preponderance of the evidence. Also, the State challenges the lower court's finding that James Robbins' constitutional right to due process was violated. We reverse.

ISSUE

[¶2] The State raises one issue before this Court:

Whether the district court erred in finding that "clear and convincing evidence" rather than a "preponderance of the evidence," is required to uphold a commercial driver's license disqualification in a contested case proceeding and in finding that [Robbins'] constitutional right to due process was violated.

FACTS

[¶ 3] On March 31, 2006, the clerks at the Port of Entry in Evanston, Wyoming, contacted the Wyoming Highway Patrol to report a truck driver with the odor of alcohol on his breath. Trooper Hutchinson arrived at the Port of Entry and made contact with the driver of the semi-truck, James T. Robbins.

[¶4] Robbins admitted to drinking earlier in the day. Based upon his admission, and the fact that the trooper smelled the odor of alcohol, Robbins submitted to a breathalyzer test, which showed a .073% blood alcohol concentration. After waiting fifteen minutes to take a second breath test, Robbins' second blow resulted in a .050% blood alcohol concentration. Field sobriety tests were also administered, after which Trooper Hutchinson determined that in accordance with federal motor vehicle guidelines, Robbins should be transported to the Uinta County Sheriff's Office for chemical testing of his breath. Implied consent advisements were read, and Robbins consented to the breath test, which resulted in readings of a blood alcohol concentration of .041% and .040%, respectively. Robbins was transported back to the Port of Entry where he was issued a citation for a violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-18-701(a) (LexisNexis 2007) for a violation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 392.5 (.04%).

[¶5] Robbins received notice of disqualification of his commercial driver's license (CDL) from the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), dated April 5, 2006. Robbins timely requested a contested case hearing in the matter. At the hearing, Robbins argued that according to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-7-305 ( LexisNexis 2007), a suspension for "driving or [being] in actual physical control of a commercial motor vehicle while the alcohol concentration of the person's blood, breath or other bodily substance is four onehundredths of one percent (0.04%) or more," required a conviction as defined by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-7-102(a)(xi) (LexisNexis 2007). On October 5, 2006, the hearing examiner issued an order upholding commercial vehicle disqualification.

[¶6] Robbins filed a petition for writ of review in the third judicial district on October 23, 2006. WYDOT filed a motion to dismiss petition for writ of review, arguing that the central issue in the case was the constitutionality of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-7-105(e) (LexisNexis 2007), and that the proper avenue to address the issue was through a declaratory judgment action. The district court agreed and issued its Order Dismissing Petition for Writ of Review on February 8, 2007. Accordingly, Robbins filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, and supporting brief, asking the district court to declare § 31-7-105(e) unconstitutional, and seeking an order directing WYDOT to reinstate his CDL. WYDOT filed an answer and reply brief, and the Court heard oral arguments on July 2, 2007. The parties supplied supplemental briefing to the Court addressing whether or not a CDL is a professional license.

[¶7] On January 25, 2008, the district court entered its Order on Declaratory Judgment Action, reversing the Office of Administrative Hearing's (OAH) Order Upholding Commercial Vehicle Disqualification. The order did not address any constitutional issues. Instead, it decided the cases on issues raised in the petition for writ of review, which was previously dismissed.

[ΒΆ8] On February 25, 2008, WYDOT filed a notice of appeal. On December 15, 2008, this Court issued a Mandate Reversing Judgment, reversing and remanding the case to the district court to consider Robbins' claim that the applicable statutes are unconstitutional. DOT ...


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