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Williams v. Director of Revenue

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

June 6, 2017

RAYMOND RICHARD WILLIAMS, Respondent,
v.
DIRECTOR OF REVENUE, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County Hon. Norman Steimel, III Judge

          OPINION

          Angela T. Quigless, P.J.

         The Director of Revenue (the "Director") suspended Raymond Richard Williams' ("Williams" or "Petitioner") driving privileges, pursuant to Section 302.505, [1] for driving with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit. Williams filed a petition for trial de novo in the Circuit Court of St. Charles County, arguing there was insufficient reasonable suspicion to justify the traffic stop. The trial court granted Williams' petition and reinstated his driving privileges. The Director appeals from the trial court's judgment reinstating Williams' driving privileges. We reverse and remand with instructions.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Officer House was on patrol when he observed Williams' vehicle "drift right crossing both passenger side tires over the solid white line on the shoulder of the roadway." Officer House conducted a traffic stop. While speaking with Williams, Officer House observed Williams' eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and detected a strong odor of intoxicating beverage emanating from the vehicle. Williams agreed to take a set of three Standardized Field Sobriety tests, which he failed. Officer House then arrested Williams for driving while intoxicated. Williams was taken to the police station, where he consented to a chemical breath test. The test recorded a blood alcohol concentration of .102 percent.

         After an administrative hearing, the Director suspended Williams' driving privilege, pursuant to Section 302.505, for driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or greater. Williams filed a petition for trial de novo. At trial, the Director submitted Officer House's alcohol influence report and supporting documentation into evidence. Williams did not object to any of the evidence. Williams argued that the alcohol incident "report is false" and that "[i]t fails on the sufficiency of the legality of the stop" because "just touching the fog line is not reasonable suspicion for anything." The Director responded that, because Williams was over the age of twenty-one, Section 302.505 did not require probable cause for the initial traffic stop, only probable cause for the arrest.

         The trial court entered judgment against the Director, setting aside the suspension of Williams' driving privileges. In its written judgment, the trial court made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

1. At approximately 1:41 a.m. on September 5, 2015, the arresting officer stopped Petitioner's vehicle. A strong smell of alcoholic beverages emanated from Petitioner's breath. Petitioner's eyes were bloodshot and glassy. Petitioner, who was the only occupant of the car and who was sitting in the driver's seat, admitted he had been drinking. When Petitioner got out of his vehicle to perform certain field sobriety tests, he was swaying. Petitioner failed the HGN test, the one-leg stand test and the heel-to-toe test.
2. The arresting officer asked Petitioner to take a chemical breath test. Petitioner's chemical breath test recorded a blood alcohol concentration of .102% by weight. The accuracy of these results was not challenged at trial.
3. To prevail here, the Director must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Petitioner was driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater. §302.505.1, RSMo. Generally, the probable cause is provided by some illegal or erratic driving behavior that first attracts the attention of the arresting officer.
4. Here, the only behavior described by the arresting officer is that he "observed [Petitioner's] vehicle driving right crossing both passenger side tires over the solid white line on the shoulder of the roadway." Resp. Ex. A. Without more, this did not provide sufficient reasonable suspicion to justify the traffic stop. State v. Beck, 436 S.W.3d 566 (Mo. App. 2013).
5. Based upon the findings set forth above, the Court does not find that, on September 5, 2015, the arresting officer had probable cause to believe Petitioner was driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater.

         This ...


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