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Watkins v. Department of Licensing

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

May 12, 2015

James Watkins , Respondent ,
v.
The Department of Licensing , Petitioner

Oral Argument February 24, 2015.

Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 13-2-07421-0. Judge signing: Honorable Stephanie a Arend. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 08/12/2013.

Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and Schuyler B. Rue, Assistant, for petitioner.

Michael R. Frans (of Law Office of Michael R. Frans ), for respondent.

Authored by Lisa Worswick. Concurring: Thomas R Bjorgen, Lisa Sutton.

OPINION

Page 947

[187 Wn.App. 594] Lisa Worswick, J.

¶ 1 James Watkins was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, and the Department of Licensing notified him that it would be revoking his driving privileges for refusing to take a breath test. After the Department's hearings examiner ruled that Watkins's privileges should be revoked, the superior court reversed the ruling because the arresting officer did not certify his report. The Department appeals, arguing that a second officer's certified report gave the Department jurisdiction under the implied consent statute[1] to revoke Watkins's driving privileges, that the arresting officer's uncertified arrest report was admissible because it accompanied the certified report, and that admitting the arresting officer's uncertified report did not violate due process. We agree with the Department, reverse the superior court, and affirm the hearing examiner's ruling sustaining the revocation of Watkins's driving privileges.

FACTS

¶ 2 Officer Matthew Smith stopped a vehicle being driven by James Watkins. Watkins had watery and bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of intoxicants coming from his person. After Watkins refused to submit to field sobriety

Page 948

tests, Officer Smith arrested Watkins for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

[187 Wn.App. 595] ¶ 3 Officer Smith transported Watkins to the Fircrest Police Department to meet with Washington State Trooper Timothy Rushton for DUI processing. Trooper Rushton provided Watkins with the warnings required by the implied consent statute and asked Watkins whether he would take a breath test. Former RCW 46.20.308 (Laws of 2012, ch. 80, § 12). Watkins refused.

¶ 4 Trooper Rushton submitted a 16 page exhibit to the Department of Licensing. The exhibit's first document was Trooper Rushton's 5 page certified report. The first page of Rushton's certified report had a checked box next to " Refused Test." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 32. The first page further stated:

The subject was lawfully arrested. At that time, there were reasonable grounds to believe that the arrested person had been driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, or both ... .
After receipt of the warnings required by subsection (2) of RCW 46.20.308, a test was administered and the results indicated that the alcohol concentration of the person's breath or blood was 0.08 or more ... . OR
After receipt of the warnings required by subsection (2) of RCW 46.20.308, the person refused to submit to a test of his/her blood or breath.
... .
I certify (or declare) under penalty of perjury ... that the foregoing and the accompanying reports/copies of documents and the information contained therein are true, correct, and accurate.

CP at 32 (emphasis added). Trooper Rushton signed the first page at the bottom. The exhibit contained additional documents accompanying Trooper Rushton's certified report, including Officer Smith's uncertified arrest report.

¶ 5 After the Department notified Watkins it would be revoking his driving privileges for one year for driving [187 Wn.App. 596] under the influence, Watkins requested and received an administrative hearing. Trooper Rushton testified at the hearing.

¶ 6 The hearing examiner concluded that Trooper Rushton's certified report gave it jurisdiction under the implied consent statute to revoke Watkins's driving privileges and that the entire exhibit was admissible, including Officer Smith's uncertified arrest report. The hearing examiner affirmed the Department's revocation of Watkins's driving privileges, ruling that Officer Smith had a legal basis to pull over Watkins and had probable cause to arrest Watkins. The hearing examiner also ruled that Officer Smith had reasonable grounds to suspect Watkins was driving under the influence and that Watkins refused to submit to a breath test after receiving proper warnings.

¶ 7 Watkins appealed the hearing examiner's decision to the superior court. The superior court reversed the hearing examiner, ruling:

The Department erred in relying upon [Officer Smith's] unsworn [and uncertified] report to establish jurisdiction and probable cause for the stop and arrest. [Officer Rushton] could not properly certify another officer's unsworn [and uncertified] report ...

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