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State v. Williams

March 7, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of Pierce County. Docket No: 93-2-12726-5. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 05/12/95. Judge signing: Hon. Rosanne N. Buckner.

Authored by Carroll C. Bridgewater. Concurring: Karen G. Seinfeld, Elaine M. Houghton.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bridgewater

BRIDGEWATER, J.--Hobart Williams appeals the revocation of his Washington driver's license. We affirm.

Williams was stopped at the gate of McChord Air Force Base in a routine check of every vehicle for the proper identification for entry. After stopping Williams, the sentry at the gate noted the smell of alcohol on Williams's breath and called for an Air Force security officer. Officer Perry, upon arriving at the gate, asked Williams to step out of his car. Officer Perry observed that Williams had difficulty walking, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes. Officer Perry administered several field sobriety tests, all of which Williams failed. Officer Perry placed Williams under arrest.

Officer Perry asked Williams to submit to a breathalyzer test, advising him that he had the right to refuse and informing him of the consequences of such a refusal under both federal and Washington law. Williams refused to take the breath test. Pursuant to federal regulation, Officer Perry executed a sworn report of William's failure to submit to the breathalyzer test and sent the report to the Washington State Department of Licensing. The Department revoked Williams's Washington driver's license. Williams appealed the Department's decision, and a de novo trial was held in Pierce County Superior Court on March 16, 1995. The trial Judge affirmed the Department's decision.


Williams contends that the federal security officer who stopped him was not a "law enforcement officer" or "arresting officer" within the contemplation of the implied consent statute, and thus the Department of Licensing did not establish jurisdiction for its revocation of his driver's license. The Department of Licensing has authority under prior RCW 46.20.308(6) (Laws of 1983, ch. 165, effective January 1, 1986) *fn1 to revoke a licensee's driving privilege upon receipt of a sworn report of a law enforcement officer stating that after valid warnings the licensee refused to take a breathalyzer test. This section has been interpreted to mean that the sworn report of a law enforcement officer is a jurisdictional prerequisite to the Department's administrative authority to revoke a licensee's driving privilege. Waid v. Department of Licensing, 43 Wash. App. 32, 36, 714 P.2d 681 (1986); Kaye v. Department of Licensing, 34 Wash. App. 132, 133, 659 P.2d 548 (1983).

The terms "law enforcement officer" and "arresting officer" are not defined in RCW 46.20 or in the general definitions of RCW 46. The term "law enforcement officer," given its plain meaning, includes any officer empowered to enforce the law. If the implied consent statute were intended to be restricted to Washington law enforcement officers, it would say so. In addition, it was Officer Perry's uncontroverted testimony that he was empowered to enforce Washington traffic laws and had the power to arrest. Officer Perry was trained by the Washington State Patrol to operate the BAC Verifier DataMaster and used the Washington rights and warnings form to inform Williams of his rights. Officer Perry did in fact arrest Williams. Thus, Officer Perry fits within the plain meaning of "law enforcement officer." Williams's attempt to use the definition of "peace officer" in RCW 10.93 to define "law enforcement officer" is inappropriate and not helpful because neither statute references the other and the terms are not identical. Officer Perry was a "law enforcement officer" for purposes of RCW 46.20.308.


Williams argues that McChord Air Force Base is not "within this state" for purposes of the implied consent statute because it is federal property. Military bases remain a part of the state in which they are located. DuPont-Fort Lewis Sch. Dist. v. Clover Park Sch. Dist., 65 Wash. 2d 342, 350, 396 P.2d 979 (1964) (citing Howard v. Commissioners of the Sinking Fund of Louisville, 344 U.S. 624, 73 S. Ct. 465, 97 L. Ed. 617 (1953)). The state loses jurisdiction to regulate within federal property only where state and federal law conflict. Id. In this case, there is no conflict of laws and McChord Air Force Base is "within this state" for purposes of the implied consent statute.


Williams contends that Washington's revocation of his driver's license is double jeopardy because he was already punished in federal court. The Double Jeopardy Clause prevents both successive punishments and successive prosecutions for the same offense. United States v. Ursery, U.S., 116 S. Ct. 2135, 2139, 135 L. Ed. 2d 549 (1996). However, "the suspension or revocation of a driver's license is not penal in nature and is not intended as punishment, but is designed solely for the protection of the public in the use of the highways." State v. Scheffel, 82 Wash. 2d 872, 879, 514 P.2d 1052 (1973). Williams argues that this case is called into question by the line of civil forfeiture cases. However, Williams relies on cases overruled by Ursery, 135 L. Ed. 2d 549, 116 S. Ct. 2135. Forfeiture of a driver's license is not punishment under the Double Jeopardy Clause, and thus double jeopardy has no application to this case.


Williams contends that the "initial detention" at the entrance gate to McChord is an unconstitutional seizure, both under state and federal constitutions. It appears that Williams is alleging that both the stop at the military ...

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