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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Humphrey

Details Matter in License Hearings and DUI Cases

Order Overturning the License Suspension

The details matter in driving under the influence (DUI) cases and the associated driver's license actions. Recently, this office won a license hearing before the Wyoming Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). DUI matters are litigated both in criminal and administrative courts. For most clients, the ability to drive is the most important concern. Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) is authorized to initiate suspension proceedings after a DUI arrest where either (1) the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or above; or (2) the driver receives a conviction for DUI. When the Licensee is arrested for DUI with a BAC of .08 or above, they have only twenty (20) days in which to request a contested case hearing if they believe they are wrongfully arrested. See § 31-6-102.

The Wyoming Supreme Court has held that “a license revocation proceeding is civil in nature and probable cause must be proven in such a proceeding by a preponderance of the evidence” Bradshaw v. Wyoming Dep't of Transp. Drivers' License Div., 2006 WY 70, ¶ 18, 135 P.3d 612, 618 (Wyo. 2006) (citing State Dep't of Revenue & Taxation v. Hull, 751 P.2d 351 (Wyo.1988)). OAH has also adopted a rule establishing a rebuttable presumption that the breath test result was valid. See OAH Rules, Ch. 6, § 2(c). It is presumed that the chemical test is correct. The burden is on the Licensee to prove that the procedures were not followed. Therefore, the Licensee is already fighting an up-hill battle during their administrative hearing.

In the case at hand, officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle that was driving without headlights after dusk. During the traffic stop, officers noted the smell of alcohol. The Licensee indicated that they had one or two drinks at a bar prior to driving. Officers conducted field sobriety tests and determined that they believed the driver to be under the influence of alcohol to a degree that rendered them incapable of operating a motor vehicle. After the arrest, officers administered a breath test that registered a BAC above .08.

In most cases, the chemical result is difficult to challenge. The chemical tests are scientific measurements of a person's breath or blood. As with all scientific tests, the results are only deemed reliable if the test is administered correctly. When a person's liberty is at stake, it is important to make sure that the test is accurate. In order for a BAC result to be relied upon, the procedures set forth by the Wyoming Department of Health must be followed.

Our firm reviewed all the footage from the breath test and discovered that the procedures were not properly followed. The administration of the breath test required an observation period of fifteen (15) minutes. Officers failed to observe the licensee for a continuous fifteen minutes. Officers failed to follow the methods approved by the Wyoming Department of Health for performing chemical analysis per Wyoming Statute § 31-6-105 (West). We raised this issue to the Hearing Examiner. He agreed that the chemical test was not properly administered, and found the result to be invalid. After finding that the BAC result was invalid, OAH rescinded the suspension action instituted by WYDOT. After winning the license matter on this issue, the district attorney agreed to dismiss the criminal case.

The chemical testing used in the criminal justice system must be reliable. It is the duty of advocates to hold the government to their burden and to make sure that these tests are administered properly so the results may be relied upon. Therefore, details in a license hearing matter. If you want to hire a firm that will pay close attention to detail, consider hiring Humphrey & Associates to review your case. Although, we were able to achieve dismissals for the client in this matter, every case is unique, and a particular outcome cannot be guaranteed.

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