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Mills v. Director of Revenue

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

February 19, 2019

RICKY L. MILLS, Respondent,
v.
DIRECTOR OF REVENUE, Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CLAY COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE LOUIS ANGLES, JUDGE

          Before Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Presiding Judge, Alok Ahuja, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge

          EDWARD R. ARDINI, JR., JUDGE

         The Director of Revenue ("the Director") appeals a judgment of the Circuit Court of Clay County reinstating the driver's license of Ricky Mills ("Mills") after its revocation based on Mills's refusal to submit to a chemical test of his breath. The trial court determined that the Director failed to establish that Mills had been arrested for driving a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         On April 29, 2017, Officer Jeffrey Garton ("Officer Garton") of the Kearney Police Department responded to the scene of a two-vehicle accident. One of the drivers involved was Mills. Both drivers declined medical treatment at the scene.

         During the investigation of the accident, Officer Garton learned Mills had an outstanding warrant out of Gladstone, Missouri for failing to appear on an unrelated traffic charge. Officer Garton explained to Mills that he was arresting him on the Gladstone, Missouri warrant and transported him to the police station.[2]

         In the booking area of the police station, Officer Garton had Mills perform three field sobriety tests. Based on Officer Garton's observations and Mills's performance during the field sobriety tests, Officer Garton concluded Mills was impaired and could not operate a motor vehicle safely.

         Officer Garton read Mills the Implied Consent advisory, which began: "You are under arrest and I have reasonable grounds to believe you were driving a motor vehicle while you were in an intoxicated or drugged condition." Officer Garton requested Mills submit to a chemical test of his breath.[3] Mills asked to first speak with his brother, a former police officer who was waiting in the lobby of the police station. Officer Garton escorted Mills's brother into the booking area. After speaking with his brother, Mills refused to take the breath test and, based on that refusal, Officer Garton took possession of his driver's license.

         Mills's brother posted a $300 cash bond for Mills's release on the Gladstone warrant. At the time of his release, Officer Garton provided Mills a "Missouri Department of Revenue Form 4323 - Refusal to Submit to Alcohol or Drug Test/Notice of Revocation of Your Driving Privilege." The form advised Mills that his license was revoked for one year and that the revocation would start fifteen days from the date the notice was issued. The form also advised Mills that he had thirty days to appeal the revocation. Officer Garton did not issue Mills a uniform traffic citation.

         Officer Garton completed an "Incident and Crime Report," which contained a detailed narrative. Officer Garton wrote in this report that, "Based off of everything that I had witnessed, I felt that [Mills] was impaired and could not operate a motor vehicle safely" and "I read [Mills the] Implied Consent." Officer Garton's narrative did not contain an explicit statement that he had arrested Mills for driving while intoxicated.[4]

         Mills challenged the Director's revocation of his license by petitioning for a trial de novo pursuant to section 302.535.[5] The Director presented the testimony of Officer Garton and a certified copy of the Director's file, which included, among other documents, an Alcohol Influence Report, Officer Garton's Incident and Crime Report, and Mills's "Missouri Department of Revenue Form 4323 -Refusal to Submit to Alcohol or Drug Test/Notice of Revocation of Your Driving Privilege."[6] Mills did not present any evidence.

         The trial court issued its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment Entry. The trial court found that, while Mills "submitted to Garton's custody, submission occurred because of the Gladstone, Missouri warrant and not as [sic] because of the events of April 29." The trial court further concluded that "Mills was never arrested for any offense arising out [sic] his operation of a motor vehicle on April 29, 2017." Based on its conclusion that Mills had not been arrested for an offense related to the operation of a motor vehicle on that April date, the trial court found Mills was under no legal obligation to submit to a chemical test of his breath. The trial court set aside the ...


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