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Casiano v. State ex rel. Wyoming Department of Transportation

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 1, 2019

ARIEL CASIANO, Appellant (Petitioner),
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Appellee (Respondent).

          Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Catherine R. Rogers, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: R. Michael Vang, R. Michael Vang P.C., Laramie, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; Misha Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Michael T. Kahler, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Amy A. Pauli, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          GRAY, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Appellant Ariel Casiano challenges the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) decision to uphold the suspension of his driver's license. In the companion criminal case, the prosecution asserted that a gap in the chain of custody of Mr. Casiano's blood samples rendered blood alcohol content (BAC) test results inadmissible. The municipal court dismissed the criminal charges without prejudice and without reference to the chain of custody issue. The question presented here is whether collateral estoppel bars the OAH from considering Mr. Casiano's BAC test results in the license suspension proceeding. We conclude that collateral estoppel does not apply and affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Mr. Casiano asserts one issue which we rephrase:

Does the prosecutor's assertion in the criminal driving while under the influence (DWUI) case, that Mr. Casiano's BAC test results were inadmissible, collaterally estop the OAH from considering those same test results in the license suspension proceeding?

         FACTS

         [¶3] The facts in this case are undisputed. On September 29, 2016, Cheyenne Police Officer Hall arrested Mr. Casiano for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Officer Hall obtained a search warrant for a blood draw pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-6-102(d) (LexisNexis 2017). Shortly after midnight, blood was drawn, but it was not delivered to the public health testing lab until eighteen days later on October 17, 2016. Subsequent testing indicated Mr. Casiano's BAC was 0.10%.

         [¶4] Criminal charges were filed in municipal court for DWUI in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-233(b) (LexisNexis 2017). On January 4, 2017, the city prosecutor moved to dismiss the criminal case. The prosecutor contended "there is insufficient evidence to establish a proper chain of custody for the time the blood samples were drawn on September 30th, 2016, to the time the blood samples were hand delivered to the Wyoming Department of Health's Chemical Testing Program (WCTP), on October 17th, 2016." According to the prosecutor, "[t]he [e]ighteen (18) day gap in the chain of custody of the Defendant's blood draw is unacceptable and renders the blood draw results inadmissible evidence . . . ." The municipal court dismissed the DWUI charge without prejudice and without reference to the chain of custody.

         [¶5] Following the municipal court's dismissal, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT or Department) held an administrative license suspension proceeding mandated by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-6-102(f). WYDOT suspended Mr. Casiano's driver's license for 90 days. Mr. Casiano sought administrative review. Mr. Casiano relied on the prosecutor's pleading in municipal court. He maintained that collateral estoppel barred use of the BAC test results in the WYDOT suspension proceeding and that those results were inadmissible because the break in the chain of custody violated the Department of Health's testing standards. The OAH upheld the suspension, reasoning that there "is no privity between the Cheyenne Municipal prosecutor and the Department" and that "no evidence was provided to establish the 18-day gap [in delivery of the blood sample to the Department of Health] resulted in a chain of custody issue." Mr. Casiano appealed the ruling to the district court. The district court affirmed the suspension. Mr. Casiano timely appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         [¶6] "When we consider an appeal from a district court's review of an administrative agency's decision, we are not bound by the conclusions of the district court." Lietz v. State ex rel. Dept. of Family Services,2018 WY 127, ¶ 10, 430 P.3d 310, 313 (Wyo. 2018) (citing Reynolds v. West Park Hospital District, 2010 WY 69, ¶ 6, 231 P.3d 1275, 1277 (Wyo. 2010); Guier v. Teton Cty. Hosp. Dist.,2011 WY 31, ¶¶ 12-13, 248 P.3d 623, 629-30 (Wyo. 2011)). We consider appeals from a district court's review of an administrative action as if the case had come directly from the administrative agency. Guier, ¶ 12, 248 P.3d at 629; Bo ...


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