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Kara Walters v. State of Wyoming Ex Rel. Wyoming Department of Transportation

May 13, 2013

KARA WALTERS, 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: Davis, Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and HILL, BURKE, and DAVIS, JJ., and GOLDEN, J., Retired

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] Appellant Kara Walters was charged with driving while under the influence (DWUI) in Laramie, Wyoming. The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) suspended her driver's license, and she requested an evidentiary hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). An OAH hearing examiner upheld the suspension against a challenge that she had not been properly advised as to implied consent. She then sought review of the administrative suspension in the district court, where she also raised a number of constitutional challenges to a municipal criminal ordinance in addition to the claim that she had not been properly advised under the implied consent statute. The district court concluded that the constitutional issues before it had not and could not have been raised in the administrative hearing and that it therefore lacked jurisdiction to consider them, and that Walters had been properly advised as to implied consent. We agree and therefore affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] 1. Did the arresting officer properly advise Ms. Walters as to implied consent as required by Wyoming Statute § 31-6-102(a)(ii) when she was also told that refusal to submit to chemical testing could result in incarceration under a municipal criminal ordinance?

2. Does this Court have jurisdiction to consider challenges to a municipal ordinance that were not and could not have been raised in a license suspension hearing?

FACTS

[¶3] A City of Laramie police officer observed Walters drive her vehicle through a flashing red light a little before one o'clock in the morning on February 6, 2012, and made a traffic stop. When he approached the vehicle and spoke with her, he detected the odor of a flavored alcoholic beverage. He then administered field sobriety and nystagmus tests, and arrested Walters for DWUI based upon the results.

[¶4] Walters was then taken to the Albany County detention center where the arresting officer read her the standard implied consent advisement required by Wyoming Statute 31-6-102(a)(ii). Walters initially refused to submit to a breath test. The officer then informed her that she could be prosecuted under a Laramie municipal ordinance for refusing to take a breath test. The officer also explained that he could obtain a search warrant, take her to Ivinson Memorial Hospital, and have a blood sample forcibly taken from her under the authority provided by Wyoming Statute § 31-6-102(d).*fn1 After this explanation, Walters submitted to a breath test, which yielded a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.18%. Ms. Walters was employed at Ivinson Memorial, which may have played a part in her decision. She was charged with DWUI under the Laramie ordinance in municipal court. That court stayed the proceedings there pending the outcome of Sandoval v. State ex rel. Wyo. Dep't of Transp., 2012 WY 160, 291 P.3d 290 (Wyo. 2012).

[¶5] Wyoming Statute § 31-6-102(e) requires WYDOT to suspend a driver's license if a DWUI test result indicates a BAC of 0.08% or more. WYDOT accordingly gave notice of its intent to suspend Walters' license for ninety days based on the breath test result. Walters timely requested a contested case hearing before an OAH hearing examiner to challenge the administrative suspension.

[¶6] At the OAH hearing, Ms. Walters argued that she had not been properly advised as to implied consent. She conceded that the officer read the advisement required by § 31-6-102(a)(ii) correctly, but contended that it was confusing and misleading because the arresting officer then advised her that she could be incarcerated for a minimum of seven days for refusing to take a chemical test under Laramie Enrolled Ordinance 1952, but did not also tell her that she could also receive a minimum sentence of seven days in jail under the ordinance if she had a BAC of 0.15% or more.

[¶7] The OAH hearing examiner rejected her argument, stating that:

The suspension of driving privileges is civil in nature and is controlled by Wyoming law. The evidence in this matter clearly established Officer Terry arrested Walters for DWUI, read Walters the implied consent advisement required under Wyoming law and Walters agreed to submit to a chemical test without the need to obtain a search warrant. Thus, the proposed suspension action should be upheld. The issues and argument raised by Walters' counsel have no merit in this civil proceeding. The arguments may have some bearing in the underlying criminal action in the Laramie Municipal Court but that issue is not one this Office has authority to determine.

The hearing examiner upheld the suspension.

[ΒΆ8] In the district court, Ms. Walters argued that the suspension should be stayed pending a decision in three declaratory judgment actions. In those cases, counsel for Walters challenged other administrative suspensions relating to the Laramie ordinance. In the alternative, she ...


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