Appeals from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Justice.
Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN,*fn1 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] This opinion encompasses three separate appeals that involve two appellants, but all challenge the same Laramie ordinance. While the appeals have not been consolidated, we join them for the purpose of opinion. The appellants, Raymond Sandoval (Sandoval) and Stacey L. Nelson (Nelson), challenged the validity of Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592 in their contested case hearings regarding the suspension of their driver's licenses before the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) and in a declaratory judgment action. The district court affirmed the suspension of their driver's licenses and dismissed the petition for declaratory judgment, finding that the claims were not justiciable. We affirm.
[¶2] 1. Did the OAH hearing examiners err when they determined that the appellants were given the proper Wyoming Implied Consent Advisement and that further advisement regarding a Laramie municipal ordinance was not necessary?
2. Did the district court err when it dismissed the appellants' petition for declaratory judgment after finding they did not raise a justiciable controversy?
[¶3] On January 1, 2011, Nelson was arrested for driving while under the influence. Upon Nelson's arrival at the detention center, the officer read him the Wyoming Implied Consent Advisement and he agreed to take a breath test. The results of the test showed that Nelson had a blood alcohol content of .15%. Based upon that result, Nelson was charged with his first offense of driving while under the influence (DWUI).
[¶4] On January 27, 2011, Sandoval was arrested for driving while under the influence. After reading him the Wyoming Implied Consent Advisement, the officer asked him to submit to a chemical test, which Sandoval refused. The officer then read Sandoval the Municipal Court Chemical Test Refusal Advisement, which informed him that he could be charged with a violation of a municipal ordinance for refusing to submit to a chemical test. Sandoval again refused, and was issued a citation for a subsequent offense of driving while under the influence and a citation for refusing to submit to a chemical test.
[¶5] Nelson and Sandoval each separately requested a contested case hearing with the OAH in order to challenge the suspension of their driver's licenses: Nelson for having a blood alcohol content of .15% and Sandoval for refusing to consent to a chemical test. Although Nelson's and Sandoval's administrative hearings were handled separately, the same arguments were made in each case. They both made several arguments regarding the validity of Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592, which makes it a misdemeanor to refuse to submit to a chemical test and enhances the penalties for driving under the influence in violation of the municipal ordinance if a chemical test reveals a blood alcohol content of .15% or higher. They also asserted that they were not properly advised of their rights under the Wyoming implied consent laws because they were not advised of all of the possible criminal implications of a chemical test under Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592.
[¶6] In each case the OAH determined that it did not have the authority to consider the validity of Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592. Instead, the OAH focused on whether the arresting officers had probable cause to arrest Sandoval and Nelson for DWUI, that they were given the proper implied consent advisements, and whether Sandoval refused to consent to the chemical test and whether Nelson's blood alcohol content exceeded .08%. Both appellants stipulated that the officers had probable cause to arrest them for DWUI, that they were arrested for DWUI, and that Sandoval refused to take a chemical test and that Nelson submitted to a test and his blood alcohol content exceeded .08%. In each case, the appellants also admitted, and the OAH specifically determined, that the officers gave the appellants the proper implied consent advisements pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-6-102 (LexisNexis 2009). However, the OAH concluded that additional advisements regarding the criminal implications of Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592 were not required, and upheld the suspension of the appellants' driver's licenses.
[¶7] The appellants each appealed the OAH orders to the district court. The district court agreed that the OAH did not have the authority to consider the appellants' constitutional issues regarding the validity of Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592. The district court also determined that the OAH's decisions that both appellants were given the required implied consent advisements were supported by substantial evidence, and that advisements regarding the Laramie municipal ordinance, which dealt with criminal penalties, were unnecessary.
[¶8] While the appellants' appeals were pending in the district court, they, along with two other individuals who are no longer parties to this action, also filed a request for declaratory relief with the district court, pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-37-103 (LexisNexis 2011). They requested that the district court declare that Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592 is unenforceable, arguing it is preempted by state law, vague and ambiguous, overly broad and affects protected behavior, and is unconstitutional. The district court dismissed the action on the basis that the appellants failed to raise a justiciable controversy. The district court explained that the appellants were charged criminally for the actions leading to their arrests and that the appropriate forum for them to pursue a remedy from the ordinance would be through the appeal of their criminal convictions.*fn2
Did the OAH hearing examiners err when they determined that the appellants were given the proper Wyoming Implied Consent Advisement and that further advisement regarding a Laramie municipal ordinance was not necessary?
[¶9] The appellants have both filed appeals challenging the OAH's decisions to uphold the suspension of their driver's licenses: Nelson for having a blood alcohol content exceeding .08% and Sandoval for refusing to submit to a chemical test. While the briefs are not complete carbon copies of each other, the issues raised by each appellant are the same and will, therefore, be discussed and analyzed together. We must begin by recognizing that both appellants have raised several issues in their appeals regarding the constitutionality and validity of Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592. In both instances, the OAH determined that it did not have the statutory authority to consider those claims and limited its decisions to the claims properly brought before it. Although the appellants have now raised those issues before this Court, they readily concede that the OAH did not have the "jurisdiction and authority" to determine the validity of Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592. This Court's authority to review the agency's action is similarly limited and, thus, this Court will not consider the constitutionality and validity of Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1592 when reviewing the OAH's decision. See Escarcega v. State ex rel. Wyo. Dep't of Transp., 2007 WY 38, ¶ 22, 153 P.3d 264, 270 (Wyo. 2007). Instead, there is one issue for this Court to determine: Whether the OAH correctly determined that the appellants were advised properly under the Wyoming implied consent statute and further advisements regarding the municipal ordinance were not necessary.
[¶10] When we review an administrative agency's decision, no deference shall be given to a district court's review of the agency's decision and "we review the case as if it had come directly to us from the administrative agency." Dale v. S & S Builders, LLC, 2008 WY 84, ¶ 8, 188 P.3d 554, 557 (Wyo. 2008) (quoting Newman v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers' Safety & Comp. Div., 2002 WY 91, ¶ 7, 49 P.3d 163, 166 (Wyo. 2002)). The appellants do not raise any factual or evidentiary issues but, instead, are asking us to interpret Wyoming's implied consent law. "We review questions of statutory interpretation de novo." Escarcega, 2007 WY 38, ¶ 7, 153 P.3d at 267 (emphasis added). "We will affirm an agency's legal conclusion ...