Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Special Division
APPEAL FROM The Circuit Court of Johnson County, Missouri. The Honorable W. Sue Dodson, Judge.
For Respondent: John H. Edmiston, Warrensburg, MO.
For Appellant: Chris Koster, Attorney General, Rachel Jones, Special Assistant Attorney General, Jefferson City, MO.
Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge. Gary D. Witt, Judge, and Zel M. Fischer, Special Judge, concur.
Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge
The Director of Revenue of the State of Missouri (" Director" ) appeals from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Johnson County, Missouri (" trial court" ), arguing that the trial court erred in ordering the Director to set aside the administrative revocation of Chad Nicholas Ayler's (" Ayler" ) driving privileges based on his refusal to submit to a chemical test pursuant to section 577.041. The Director asserts that the trial court erroneously concluded that the arresting officer lacked reasonable grounds to believe Ayler was driving a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition. We affirm.
Factual and Procedural History
At approximately 2:12 a.m. on January 4, 2013, Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper J.D. Owens (" the Trooper" ) was advised of a one-vehicle wreck at 843 S.W. 1601 Road in Johnson County, Missouri, where the road conditions were ice-covered. While responding to the wreck, he was advised that Johnson County deputies had arrived at the scene. When the Trooper arrived, he observed the vehicle lying on its roof in a ditch. Two men were standing on the side of the roadway surrounded by firefighters. The Trooper spoke with both men, who admitted to being passengers in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Both advised the Trooper that Ayler was the driver. One of the passengers was Ayler's younger brother, Jacob Ayler (" Jacob" ). Jacob provided the only evidence regarding the time of the accident, which Jacob estimated to be sometime between 11:50 p.m. and 12:25 a.m.
The trial court's judgment is silent on the topic of Ayler's alcohol consumption prior to the wreck and neither party demanded findings of fact and conclusions of law. Demonstrating the equivocal nature of the evidence on this topic, the Director's appellate brief states:
[Jacob] testified that [Ayler] had at least one beer before the crash. (Tr. 11, 13, 14, 20-21). He further admitted that he told one of the officers that [Ayler] had one or two beers, and one of the officers that [Ayler] had two or three beers. (Tr. 20-21; L.F. 19).
What the trial court found significant in its judgment, however, was the timing of when any beer may have been consumed, particularly in light of the fact that there was a gap of potentially more than two hours between the time of the wreck and the Trooper's initial contact with Ayler. The only unequivocal and undisputed evidence about Ayler's alcohol consumption prior to the wreck was Jacob's testimony that Ayler " had one [beer] from Casey's [where the beer and pizza was purchased] to the wreck [which occurred 20 to 25 minutes later]." He also characterized Ayler's ability to drive as " perfect."
The Trooper's initial contact with Ayler was at 2:42 a.m. Ayler refused to speak with the Trooper and refused to take a ...