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Patrick R. Espinoza v. State of Wyoming

July 25, 2012

PATRICK R. ESPINOZA, APPELLANT (PETITIONER),
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, EX REL.,
WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLEE (RESPONDENT).



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] After stopping Patrick R. Espinoza for failing to maintain a single lane of travel while driving on Interstate 80 (I-80) in Laramie, Wyoming, an Albany County Sheriff's deputy arrested Mr. Espinoza for driving while under the influence of alcohol. The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) suspended Mr. Espinoza's driver's license, and he objected. At the contested case hearing, Mr. Espinoza claimed the deputy was not justified in stopping him. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the suspension, and the district court affirmed. We conclude the deputy had probable cause to stop Mr. Espinoza for a traffic violation and affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] The issue presented for our review is whether the evidence supports the conclusion that the deputy had probable cause to stop Mr. Espinoza for violating Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-209 (LexisNexis 2011), which requires vehicles be driven "as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane" of traffic.

FACTS

[¶3] In the early morning hours of February 11, 2011, Albany County Sheriff's Deputy Jeffrey Beeston was patrolling in Laramie when he observed a pickup, which was later determined to be driven by Mr. Espinoza, accelerate quickly and turn abruptly onto the I-80 on-ramp. Deputy Beeston followed the pickup onto the interstate and activated his DVD recording device to record Mr. Espinoza's driving. Deputy Beeston observed Mr. Espinoza swerving and then abruptly leave the interstate at the Snowy Range exit.

[¶4] Deputy Beeston followed Mr. Espinoza off the interstate, activated his lights and stopped Mr. Espinoza. The deputy observed signs that Mr. Espinoza had been drinking alcohol and proceeded to administer sobriety tests, which Mr. Espinoza failed. The deputy arrested Mr. Espinoza for driving while under the influence of alcohol in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-233 (LexisNexis 2010) and administered a breath test that showed he had an alcohol concentration of 0.17%, more than two times the legal limit allowed for driving.

[¶5] WYDOT suspended Mr. Espinoza's driver's license, and he requested a contested case hearing. He argued at the hearing that Deputy Beeston did not have legal justification to stop him, but after reviewing the DVD recording and the deputy's report, the OAH found the stop was legal and upheld the suspension. Mr. Espinoza petitioned the district court for review of the OAH decision, and that court affirmed. He then filed a notice of appeal with this Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶6] Our review of an administrative decision is governed by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-114(c) (LexisNexis 2009), which provides: (c) To the extent necessary to make a decision and when presented, the reviewing court shall decide all relevant questions of law, interpret constitutional and statutory provisions, and determine the meaning or applicability of the terms of an agency action. In making the following determinations, the court shall review the whole record or those parts of it cited by a party and due account shall be taken of the rule of prejudicial error. The reviewing court shall:

(i) Compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed; and

(ii) Hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings and ...


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