CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reversed a decision made by a Boone circuit judge involving the reinstatement of a woman's driver's license.
West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Pat Reed appealed the decision made by Boone Circuit Court in 2017 to reinstate the driver's license of a woman who had allegedly been driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The Office of Administrative Hearings had issued an order in 2016 revoking Doreen Grillot's driver's license.
"Upon consideration of the parties’ briefs, oral arguments, and the appendix record, this Court concludes that the circuit court erred in reversing the order of the OAH because the record evidence is sufficient to support a finding that Ms. Grillot drove a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol which warranted the administrative revocation of her driver's license," the March 4 memorandum decision obtained by the West Virginia Record states. "Accordingly, we reverse the July 7, 2017 order of the Circuit Court of Boone County and remand this case to the circuit court for entry of an order reinstating the Commissioner’s order of revocation."
The facts are disputed by the parties, according to the decision.
At approximately 1:54 a.m. on March 10, 2012, Officer L.W. Holeston, of the Madison Police Department, was driving his patrol car in Madison and reportedly saw Grillot driving in the opposite direction, straddling the center line, weaving, swerving into Holeston’s lane of traffic, using the brakes frequently and traveling at a slow rate of speed.
Grillot claims Holeston was traveling behind her vehicle and, due to the bright lights on his car, she pulled into a restaurant parking lot and Holeston pulled into the parking lot behind her and turned on his car’s blue lights.
Holeston claims he turned on his car’s blue lights and stopped Grillot at the same restaurant parking lot she referenced.
Holeston also reported that, when he approached Grillot’s vehicle, he smelled alcohol and observed wine in the car. He also stated Grillot was unsteady while exiting her vehicle, walking and standing; she had slurred speech and her eyes were red and glassy.
Holeston claims that Grillot said that she had drunk a beer, but Grillot denies making this statement and claims, instead, that she had not been drinking alcohol prior to this encounter with Holeston.
Holeston then administered three field sobriety tests to Grillot, including a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), which checks eye movement. He indicated on the D.U.I. information sheet that she had a resting nystagmus, which would have negated the HGN, but before the OAH, he claimed it was an error.
Holeston also requested Grillot to complete the walk and turn test and the one leg stand test. When Holeston attempted to administer a preliminary breath test, Grillot provided an insufficient sample.
Grillot was transported to the police station and given a secondary chemical breath test, which she also blew an insufficient sample. She refused a second chemical test.
Grillot disputes that she denied a second test and asserts that she requested a secondary blood or urine test, which Holeston refused to provide.
OAH affirmed the commissioner's order of revocation on Nov. 4, 2016. Grillot then appealed the OAH’s order to Boone Circuit Court, which entered an order on July 7, 2017, reversing the ruling and ordering her driver's license reinstated. Reed then appealed that order to the Supreme Court.
"The evidence presented in the underlying proceedings demonstrates that Ms. Grillot was driving her vehicle in a manner suggesting that she was under the influence of alcohol," the decision states.
The Supreme Court ruled that all the facts presented support the OAH's finding that the evidence warranted a finding that Grillot operated the vehicle while under the influence.
"Here, the trier of fact was the administrative law judge who presided over the OAH proceedings, and such credibility assessments, as well as the corresponding findings of fact, are entitled to deference unless clear error has been committed," the decision states.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Case number: 17-0691