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William Scott Tiernan v. the State of Wyoming

October 14, 2011

WILLIAM SCOTT TIERNAN, APPELLANT (PLAINTIFF),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLEE (DEFENDANT).



Appeal from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kite, Chief 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 typographical or other formal errors so correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] A Wyoming State Trooper stopped William Scott Tiernan on suspicion of driving while impaired after he observed Mr. Tiernan's vehicle cross the center line and the fog line a couple of times. The trooper conducted field sobriety tests and arrested Mr. Tiernan for driving under the influence of alcohol. Mr. Tiernan refused to submit to chemical testing and the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) advised him that it intended to suspend his driver's license. Mr. Tiernan requested a hearing during which he argued the trooper was not justified in stopping him. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the suspension. Mr. Tiernan appealed to the district court, which affirmed the OAH order.

[¶2] Mr. Tiernan appealed the district court's ruling affirming the OAH order. He contends the trooper failed to present sufficient facts to support the stop for a lane violation. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶3] We restate the issue Mr. Tiernan presents as follows:

Whether the DVD recording taken from the trooper's patrol car supports the conclusion that he had probable cause to stop Mr. Tiernan for failing to maintain a single lane of traffic in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-209(a)(i) (LexisNexis 2011).

FACTS

[¶4] Around 9:45 p.m. on May 1, 2010, Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper David Wagener was patrolling Highway 130 in Albany County. According to his report, he was behind a blue Chevy truck with Florida license plates. His report states:

I observed the truck cross over the dashed center line one time to the south, drift to the right and then cross over the white fog line to the north. The Chevy truck was traveling approximately 60 mph in a posted 65 mph zone. At that point, I was suspicious that the driver of the blue Chevy truck was possibly intoxicated.

As I continued to observe the truck, an eastbound vehicle approached with its headlights on. As the eastbound vehicle approached the Chevy truck, I observed the Chevy truck drift back across the north white fog line. This observation increased my suspicion that the driver may be intoxicated, as I noted from my experience and training that impaired drivers will sometimes steer away from oncoming headlights. Based on my observations, I conducted a traffic stop on the blue Chevy truck at mile post 05.00 on WY 130 westbound in Albany County for lane use and suspicion of an impaired driver.

[¶5] As Trooper Wagener activated his flashing lights and approached the truck, it pulled off the highway and stopped. Upon contacting the driver, the trooper observed signs that he had been drinking. Mr. Tiernan admitted that he had consumed alcohol, but said he thought he was okay to drive. He refused to submit to a breath test. The trooper asked him to perform field sobriety tests which, according to his report, Mr. Tiernan performed poorly. He arrested Mr. Tiernan for driving under the influence of alcohol and transported him to the detention center where Mr. Tiernan again refused to submit to a breath test.

[¶6] By letter dated May 11, 2010, WYDOT advised Mr. Tiernan that based upon his refusal to submit to a chemical test his driver's license would be suspended for six months in accordance with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-6-102 (LexisNexis 2009).*fn1 Mr. Tiernan submitted a request for a hearing to contest the suspension. The OAH convened a hearing on July 14, 2010. Mr. Tiernan and his attorney appeared by telephone and presented as evidence the DVD recording taken from the patrol car, arguing that it did not support the trooper's report that his vehicle had crossed the center and fog lines and the stop was invalid. WYDOT submitted its certified record containing Trooper Wagener's certified statement and ...


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