HERMAN E. WELLS
THE LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS, OFFICE OF MOTOR VEHICLES
Appealed from the 21st Judicial District Court In and for the
Parish of Tangipahoa State of Louisiana Docket Number
2017-0003365 Honorable Robert H. Morrison, III, Judge
C. Hopes, Stephen A. Quidd, Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for
Defendant /Appellant The Louisiana Department of Public
Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles
D. Lewis, New Orleans, LA Counsel for Plaintiff /Appellee
Herman E. Wells
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, HIGGINBOTHAM, THERIOT, AND
matter is before us on appeal by the Louisiana Department of
Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles
("OMV") from a June 7, 2018 judgment of the
district court rendered on request for judicial review,
ordering that the proposed suspension of Herman E.
Wells's commercial driver's license be recalled and
that the OMV reinstate his commercial driver's license,
based upon the district court's finding that the OMV
failed to prove sufficient grounds existed to suspend
plaintiffs license. For the following reasons, we reverse the
district court's judgment and reinstate the OMV's
suspension and disqualification.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
patrolling Highway 442 in Tangipahoa Parish on June 11, 2017,
Nathanial Cooper, a deputy with the Tangipahoa Parish
Sheriffs Office, observed a white commercial-grade truck
parked five to ten feet off the roadway on the shoulder of
the southbound side of Highway 442 near its intersection with
Highway 51. Deputy Cooper observed that the truck was still
running and approached the truck for further inspection. Upon
closer inspection of the inside of the truck, Deputy Cooper
discovered Herman E. Wells, whom Deputy Cooper identified at
trial, laying across the front seat with the lights on, keys
in the ignition, and the engine running. Eventually, Deputy
Cooper was able to wake Mr. Wells and make contact with him,
at which point Deputy Cooper noticed an obvious odor of
alcohol on Mr. Wells' breath. Upon questioning by Deputy
Cooper, Mr. Wells admitted that he had driven the truck from
a family gathering in Independence, Louisiana after consuming
multiple alcoholic beverages.
Cooper contacted Bobby Guy, another deputy with the
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriffs Office, requesting assistance in
conducting field sobriety and breathalyzer tests, but he also
conducted the horizontal gaze nystagmus test on Mr. Wells,
during which he observed several signs of impairment.
Guy later testified that when he arrived on the scene, Mr.
Wells was outside of the truck and Deputy Cooper briefed him
of the situation. During his investigation, Deputy Guy asked
Mr. Wells whether he had been driving the truck prior to
being arrested, and Mr. Wells replied that he drove the truck
from his brother's house and pulled over to sleep. After
conducting field sobriety tests, Deputy Guy arrested Mr.
Wells for violation of LSA-R.S. 14;98,  driving while
intoxicated ("DWI"). After being advised of his
rights, Mr. Wells submitted to a breathalyzer test, the
results of which showed a blood alcohol reading of 0.184
result of his arrest for DWI, Mr. Wells's driver's
license was surrendered, his personal license was suspended
for ninety days in accordance with LSA-R.S.
32;667(B)(1)(b) and his commercial driver's license
was disqualified for one year in accordance with LSA-R.S.
32;414.2(A)(4)(a)(i). After Mr. Wells timely requested an
administrative hearing regarding the suspension of his
license, the OMV's suspension was upheld. Mr. Wells then
filed a request for judicial review of the administrative
decision upholding the suspension. A trial was held on May
21, 2018, before the district court, and the only issue
presented to the district court was whether the officer had
reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Wells was operating a
motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
trial, the OMV presented the testimony of both Deputy Cooper
and Deputy Guy and others. At the conclusion of the OMV's
case and before Mr. Wells was called to the stand by his
counsel, the district court granted the relief requested by
Mr. Wells, noting that from the evidence presented, it could
not determine whether or not the area occupied by Mr. Wells
was, in fact, a public highway. In accordance with the
district court's finding, the district court signed a
judgment recalling the proposed suspension of Mr. Wells's
license and ordering the OMV to reinstate his commercial
driver's license. The OMV then filed the instant appeal.
to LSA-R.S. 32:667(A)(1), when a law enforcement officer
places a person under arrest for violation of LSA-R.S. 14:98
and the person submits to an approved chemical test for
intoxication, which results show a blood alcohol level of .08
percent or above by weight, the officer is required to seize
the driver's license of the person under arrest and issue
in its place a temporary receipt of license. If the person
holds a commercial driver's license, ...