Thursday, February 24, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 32

Summary of Decision February 24, 2011

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Elliott v. State of Wyoming

Citation: 2011 WY 32

Docket Number: S-10-0074


W.R.A.P. 11 Certification from the District Court of Converse County, the Honorable John C. Brooks, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): R. Michael Vang of Fleener & Vang, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Bruce A. Salzburg, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Leda M. Pojman, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Pojman.

Date of Decision: February 24, 2011

Facts: The Defendant/Licensee/Appellant was arrested for driving while under the influence (DWUI) in Converse County Wyoming in violation of Wyoming Statute §31-5-233. Appellant appeared through counsel at his implied consent hearing. WYDOT appeared and presented evidence through the Officer’s Signed Statement and certified record, and Appellant appeared via telephone with his attorney. During the implied consent hearing the OAH allowed Appellant to supplement the record with a copy of a DVD of the stop and arrest that Appellant had received from the Converse County attorney’s Office thorough criminal discovery, as well as allowing him to file a Motion to Vacate Proposed Suspension. Consequently, OAH entered Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Decision and Order Rescinding Per Se Suspension. Subsequently, Appellant filed with the Circuit Court a motion to dismiss the criminal charge based on collateral estoppel and res judicata. The State responded. The Circuit Court denied Appellant’s motion and allowed a conditional plea and appeal to resolve the certified question in this case.

The parties stipulated to the following facts (summarized): (1) The hearing examiner determined that there was no probable cause to arrest Appellant pursuant to Wyoming Statute § 31-6-102(a)(i)(A); (2) Probable cause is an element in both the implied consent hearing and the underlying DWUI charge; (3) The officer in every case was required to fill out an Officer’s Signed Statement under penalty of perjury, which is the certified record and only evidence the officer is required to file to support a proposed suspension under Wyoming’s Implied Consent Law; (4) When an officer does not initial the Officer’s Signed Statement requesting to be subpoenaed, which is the situation in the appellant’s case and all of the cases currently pending in District Court in Albany County, then the arresting officer is not subpoenaed. Under these circumstances, neither the arresting officer, nor the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office participates in the hearing, which is what happened in the present appeal; (5) Appellant and his attorney were the only participants in any of the implied consent hearings resulting in the findings of no probable cause to arrest for DWUI that Appellant is attempting to use as collateral estoppel and res judicata as a basis to dismiss the underlying DWUI charge that was the basis of the conditional plea and if the issue is resolved in favor of the appellant it is a dispositive issue that will result in dismissal.

Certified Question: Does collateral estoppel apply to an Office of Administrative Hearing [examiner’s] ruling that found an officer lacked probable cause to arrest a defendant under Wyoming’s implied consent statute, for the same incidents resulting in the defendant’s conditional plea for DWUI? [Although Appellant included in his issue the companion argument of res judicata, he conceded that res judicata did not apply in this situation and the Court agreed.]

Holdings: Although the Court has not formally held that collateral estoppel does not prevent the State from litigating issues at a criminal trial that were previously decided in an administrative setting, the Court sees the point for doing so, due to the differing purposes and policies behind the two types of proceedings.

The Court answered the certified question in the negative. Collateral estoppel does not apply to an Office of Administrative Hearing [examiner’s] ruling that found an officer lacked probable cause to arrest a defendant under Wyoming’s implied consent statute, for the same incidents resulting in the defendant’s conditional plea for DWUI.

J. Hill delivered the opinion for the court.

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