Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Franklin County 15AB-AC01852,
Honorable David L. Hoven Judge.
M. Gaertner Jr. Judge.
Director of Revenue (Director) appeals the judgment of the
trial court in favor of Respondent Charles Anderson
(Anderson), which reinstated Anderson's driver's
license because it found the Director failed to establish
there was probable cause to believe Anderson operated his
vehicle while intoxicated. The Director argues the trial
court erroneously applied Missouri law regarding what
constitutes "driving." We reverse.
September 21, 2015, Sergeant Joseph Renkenmeyer of the
Washington Police Department received a call from dispatch
that a gas station clerk had reported a vehicle parked by the
gas station for about an hour, with the driver passed out
inside the vehicle. Sergeant Renkenmeyer and Sergeant Chad
Sloan arrived at the gas station and saw the vehicle parked
with its engine running. The vehicle was not parked in a
parking spot. It was not illegally parked, but Sergeant
Renkenmeyer observed it was unusually parked. He testified he
had seen vehicles parked along the same side of the gas
station before, but not the way this vehicle was parked. The
officers observed Anderson in the vehicle, slumped forward
with his eyes closed. Sergeant Renkenmeyer knocked on the
window and shook the vehicle in order to rouse Anderson.
Sergeant Renkenmeyer asked Anderson to unlock and open the
door, which Anderson did. Sergeant Sloan reached in and
turned off the engine.
Renkenmeyer asked Anderson if he had had anything to drink,
and Anderson initially replied, "Yeah, some water and
bit of soda." Sergeant Renkenmeyer asked specifically
about alcoholic drinks, and Anderson replied, "A little
bit" and "It's been over an hour."
Sergeant Renkenmeyer asked Anderson if he drove himself to
the gas station, and Anderson said that he did. Sergeant
Renkenmeyer asked Anderson to submit to a preliminary breath
test (PBT), but Anderson refused.
Director revoked Anderson's license for a period of one
year due to Anderson's refusal to submit to a chemical
test, in violation of Section 577.041, RSMo. (Supp.
2015). Anderson filed a petition for review in
the circuit court, which reversed the revocation of
Anderson's driver's license, finding that there was
not substantial and competent evidence to establish probable
cause for believing Anderson drove his vehicle while
intoxicated. This appeal follows.
review of a court-tried case is governed by the principles
set forth by the Missouri Supreme Court in Murphy v.
Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). We will
affirm the judgment of the trial court unless there is no
substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight
of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the
law. Id. We defer to the trial court's factual
findings. Sostman v. Dir. of Revenue, 363 S.W.3d 55,
57 (Mo. App. E.D. 2011). But if our inquiry is purely legal,
we need not defer to the trial court's conclusion. See
Hampton v. Dir. of Revenue, 22 S.W.3d 217, 220 (Mo.
App. W.D. 2000).
Director's sole point on appeal is that the trial court
erroneously reinstated Anderson's driver's license
due to a misapplication of the statutory definition of
"drive." We agree.
to Section 577.041.1, if a person under arrest or who has
been stopped refuses to submit to an officer's request
for a chemical test, that "person's license shall be
immediately revoked upon refusal to take the test." In
order to uphold the revocation, as relevant here, the
Director must show (1) the person was arrested or stopped,
(2) the officer had reasonable grounds to believe that the
person was driving a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated
condition, and (3) the person refused to submit to a chemical
test. Section 577.041.4. At issue on appeal is whether the
Director established that Sergeant Renkenmeyer had probable
cause to believe Anderson was driving while intoxicated.
cause to arrest exists when the arresting officer's
knowledge of the particular facts and circumstances is
sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that a
suspect has committed an offense." Hinnah v. Dir. of
Revenue,77 S.W.3d 616, 621 (Mo. banc 2002). The
determination of probable cause is based on "the
information in the officers' possession prior to the
arrest." Id. The test is not precise, ...