Summary of Decision July 25, 2012
Chief Justice Kite delivered the opinion for the Court. Affirmed.
Case Name: PATRICK R. ESPINOZA v. STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Docket Number: S-11-0291
Appeal from the District Court of Albany County, Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge.
Representing Appellant: R. Michael Vang of Fleener & Vang LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; Douglas J. Moench, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kristin M. Nuss, Senior Assistant Attorney General.
Date of Decision: July 25, 2012
Facts: After stopping Patrick R. Espinosa for failing to maintain a single lane of travel while driving on Interstate 80 (I-80) in Laramie, Wyoming, an Albany County Sheriff’s deputy arrested Mr. Espinoza for driving while under the influence of alcohol. The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) suspended Mr. Espinoza’s driver’s license, and he objected. At the contested case hearing, Mr. Espinoza claimed the deputy was not justified in stopping him. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the suspension, and the district court affirmed. The Court concluded the deputy had probable cause to stop Mr. Espinoza for a traffic violation and affirmed.
Issues: The issue presented for the Court’s review was whether the evidence supported the conclusion that the deputy had probable cause to stop Mr. Espinoza for violating Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-209 (LexisNexis 2011), which requires vehicles be driven “as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane” of traffic.
Holdings: Mr. Espinoza claimed the deputy’s report improperly stated that the lane violations occurred at milepost 312 when milepost 312 is actually further down the highway. The deputy’s report stated: “I noted that in the 312 milepost, the pickup went across the centerline then drifted back across the right lane and across the fog line before regaining a single lane of travel.” The Court did not read the deputy’s report as stating that the violations occurred precisely at milepost 312. There is obviously a typographical error when it states “in the 312 milepost.” The lane breaches occurred within close proximity milepost 312, and a reasonable interpretation of the report is that the deputy was simply referencing the nearby milepost. Moreover, the lane violations are shown on the DVD, so the fact that the deputy may have made a slight mistake in locating them was largely irrelevant. The Court concluded that the record contained substantial evidence that the deputy had probable cause to stop Mr. Espinoza for failing to maintain his lane of travel in violation of § 31-5-209. Affirmed.
Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Summary of Decision July 25, 2012