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Huffman v. State, Department of Public Safety

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

February 27, 2018

JOSEPH D. HUFFMAN
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, LICENSE CONTROL AND DRIVER IMPROVEMENT DIVISION

         On Appeal from the 21 st Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Livingston State of Louisiana Trial Court Docket Number 154, 335, Honorable Charlotte LL Foster, Judge Presiding.

          Glynn J. Delatte, Jr. Stephen R. Edwards, Jr Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Counsel for Plaintiff/ Appellant, Joseph D. Huffman.

          Laura C. Hopes Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee, State of Louisiana, Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles.

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.

          PENZATO, J.

         Appellant, Joseph D. Huffman, seeks review of a district court judgment that affirmed the suspension of his driver's license and required him to install an ignition interlock device prior to its reinstatement. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 31, 2016, around 2:30 a.m., Louisiana State Trooper William Cook stopped Mr. Huffman for a traffic violation. When Trooper Cook approached the vehicle, he smelled an odor of an alcoholic beverage and observed Mr. Huffman swaying while trying to stand. Trooper Cook became suspicious that Mr. Huffman was impaired, but did not suspect Mr. Huffman to be under the influence of drugs. Therefore, he decided to administer field sobriety tests. Mr. Huffman performed poorly on the standardized field sobriety testing and was arrested for driving while intoxicated and transported to the Livingston Parish Jail. Trooper Cook read to Mr. Huffman the applicable portions of the standardized arrestee's rights form, "Rights Relating to the Chemical Test for Intoxication."[1] Mr. Huffman refused to sign the form, but submitted to the chemical test for intoxication. The results indicated a . 172 grams percent blood alcohol concentration.

         Mr. Huffman's driver's license was suspended, and he timely requested, and was granted, an administrative hearing to contest the suspension. Mr. Huffman's suspension was affirmed. He filed suit in the Twenty-First Judicial District Court to challenge the suspension. A de novo hearing on the merits was held on April 3, 2017. The district court heard testimony from witnesses, and evidence was submitted. The district court ordered post-trial memoranda, and took the matter under advisement. On May 5, 2017, the district court issued reasons for judgment, and signed a judgment affirming the 365 day suspension of Mr. Huffman's driving privileges, and requiring Mr. Huffman to install an ignition interlock device in his vehicle prior to reinstatement of his driver's license. From that judgment, Mr. Huffman appeals.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         Mr. Huffman asserts that the district court erred in finding that (1) even though he was not advised of all of the rights as required by La. R.S. 32;66l(C)(1), the test results were admissible, since he was not prejudiced; and (2) the provisions of La. R.S. 32;667(I)(1)(b) were proven by competent evidence to be applicable in this matter, thereby requiring the use of an ignition interlock device at the time of reinstatement.

         LAW AND DISCUSSION

         On review of the administrative suspension of a driver's license pursuant to the implied consent law, the district court is required to conduct a trial de novo to determine the propriety of the suspension. Such a trial is a civil action amenable to all of the ordinary rules of procedure and proof. Further, the fact that this is an action for judicial review of a decision resulting from an administrative hearing does not change the burden of proof placed by law. Stoltz v. Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, 2013-1968 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/25/14), 147 So.3d 1131, 1133.

         Louisiana's implied consent statute, La. R.S. 32;66l(A)(1), provides, in ...


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