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Thanner v. Director of Revenue

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

May 2, 2017

WILLIAM THANNER, JR., Petitioner/Respondent,
v.
DIRECTOR OF REVENUE, Respondent/Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Honorable Dale Hood

          OPINION

          Lisa Van Amburg, Judge

         The Director of Revenue appeals the trial court's judgment ordering the Department to issue a Missouri driver's license to William Thanner. We reverse and remand.

         Background

         Thanner and his family moved to Missouri from Georgia in 2015. Thanner timely applied for a Missouri driver's license to reflect his change of residency. At the time, Thanner had a Georgia driver's license and a clean driving record since 2010. The Director denied the application based on three DWI convictions that Thanner incurred in Georgia between 1996 and 2010, two of which resulted in 4-month suspensions.

         Thanner petitioned for judicial review under §302.311 and, in his petition, acknowledged his three DWI convictions. The Director responded, citing those convictions as the basis for denial. The parties appeared before the trial court in 2016. In that proceeding, Thanner again conceded the Georgia convictions but testified that he successfully completed all requirements for reinstatement of his Georgia license[1] and had not consumed alcohol since 2009. The Director adduced certified records of Thanner's Georgia convictions, the validity of which Thanner does not dispute.

         Adopting Thanner's proposed judgment in its entirety, the trial court granted Thanner's petition and ordered the Director to issue him a Missouri driver license, reasoning that Thanner posed no safety risk on Missouri roadways and that Georgia's reinstatement was entitled to full faith and credit under the interstate Driver License Compact (§302.600). The Director appeals and asserts that the trial court misapplied Missouri law governing license eligibility.

         Standard of Review

         On appeal from a circuit court's decision in a license suspension or denial review, this court reviews the judgment of the circuit court rather than the Director's decision. Silman v. Dir. of Revenue, 880 S.W.2d 574, 576 (Mo. App. S.D. 1994); Vette v. Dir. of Revenue, 99 S.W.3d 563, 566 (Mo. App. W.D. 2003). This court will affirm the judgment of the circuit court unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Wampler v. Dir. of Revenue, 48 S.W.3d 32, 34 (Mo. 2001) citing Murhpy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment and defer to the trial court's resolution of factual issues. Duffy v. Dir. of Revenue, 966 S.W.2d 372, 379 (Mo. App. W.D. 1998). However, when facts are not contested and the issue is one of law, then we do not defer to the trial court, and our review is de novo. Stiers v. Director of Revenue, 477 S.W.3d 611, 614 (Mo. 2016). Here, the Director asserts that the trial court erred as a matter of law, so our review is de novo.

         Framework

         On judicial review of an administrative license denial or suspension, the driver has the burden of producing evidence that he was qualified for a driver's license, and the Director has the burden of producing evidence that the driver is not eligible. Kinzenbaw v. Dir. of Revenue, 62 S.W.3d 49 (Mo. 2001). The Director can meet that burden by introducing the administrative record. Id. The driver must then show that the administrative record is incorrect or the grounds for denial unlawful. Id.

         Under Missouri law, three or more DWI convictions result in denial or revocation of a Missouri driver's license for ten years. Section 302.060 states in pertinent part:

The director shall not issue any license and shall immediately deny any driving privilege … (9) To any person who has been convicted more than twice of violating state law, . . . relating to driving while intoxicated; except that, after the expiration of ten years from the date of conviction of the last offense of violating such law or ordinance relating to driving while intoxicated, a person who was so convicted may petition the circuit court of the county in which such last conviction was rendered and the court shall review the person's habits and conduct since such conviction. . . .

ยง 302.060.1(9). The Director's authority to suspend or revoke a license based on out-of-state convictions is ...


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