Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 33

Summary of Decision March 6, 2012

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

Case Name:  Michaels v. State, ex. rel., Dept. of Transportation      

Citation:  2012 WY 33

Docket Number: S-11-0156

Appeal from the District Court of Big Horn County, The Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge

Representing Appellant (Petitioner):  Donna D. Domonkos, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Respondent):  Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; Douglas J. Moench, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Donna A. Murray, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: March 6, 2012

Facts:  Petitioner was arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-233(b) (LexisNexis 2009).  The Wyoming Department of Transportation (the State) notified him that it was suspending his driver’s license for ninety days.  Petitioner requested an administrative hearing.  After the hearing, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the suspension. 

Petitioner appealed the suspension to the district court, which affirmed the OAH decision.  He then appealed to this Court, claiming § 31-5-233(b) prohibits drinking and driving, his condition at the time of his arrest was the result of a diabetic ketoacidosis state not the result of drinking alcohol, therefore, the State did not meet its burden of proving that probable cause existed to believe he violated the statute. 

Issues:  1) Whether the OAH decision is in accordance with the law and, if so, 2) whether it was supported by substantial evidence.

Holdings:  The Court held as a matter of law that § 31-5-233(b) was intended to apply when a person drives or is in actual control of a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol beyond the legal limit or to a degree rendering him incapable of safely driving.  Therefore, the OAH’s ruling that § 31-5-233(b) did not distinguish between alcohol concentration caused by consuming alcoholic beverages and alcohol concentration caused by some other factor is incorrect.  However, the Court also held that the State met its burden of proving that probable cause existed at the time of the arrest to believe that Petitioner  had violated § 31-5-233(b), and the Court affirmed  the OAH’s order upholding the suspension of his driver’s license.

C. J. Kite delivered the opinion for the court.

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