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Lancaster v. Secretary of State

Superior Court of Maine, Lincoln

March 20, 2017

KYLE LANCASTER, Petitioner
v.
SECRETARY OF STATE, Respondent

          Kyle Lancaster Plaintiff Attorney: Jonathan Handelman

          State of Maine, Bureau of Motor Vehicles Defendant Attorney: Donald W. Macomber, AAG

          DECISION AND ORDER

          Daniel I. Billings Justice

         The petitioner, Kyle Lancaster, filed this appeal, pursuant to 5 M.R.S. §§ 11001 et seq. and Maine Rule of Civil Procedure 80C, from a decision of a hearing officer for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles that denied a petition for review of a 275 day administrative suspension of Mr. Lancaster's license to operate a motor vehicle pursuant to 29-A M.R.S. §§ 2521 for refusing to submit to a chemical test at the request of a law enforcement officer on December 12, 2015. This court has reviewed the record and the written submissions of the parties.

         In reviewing the hearing officer's decision, the Court reviews the record of the administrative agency directly to determine "whether the Hearing Examiner abused her discretion, committed an error of law, or made findings not supported by substantial evidence in the record." Abrahamson v. Secretary of State, 584 A.2d 668, 670 (Me. 1991). Substantial evidence is defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the resulting conclusion." Lewiston Daily Sun v. Maine Unemployment Insurance Comm'n., 1999 ME 90, ¶7, 733 A.2d 344, 346 (quoting Crocker v. Maine Unemployment Insurance Comm'n., 450 A.2d 469, 471 (Me. 1982)). "A reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency merely because the evidence could give rise to more than one result." Dodd v. Secretary of State, 526 A.2d 583, 584 (Me. 1987). The focus on appeal is not whether the court would have reached the same conclusion as the agency, but whether the record contains competent and substantial evidence that supports the result reached by the agency. See CWCO, Inc. v. Superintendent of Ins., 1997 ME 226, ¶ 6, 703 A.2d 1258, 1261. "Inconsistent evidence will not render an agency decision unsupported." Seider v. Board of Exam'r of Psychologist, 2000 ME 206, ¶ 9, 762 A.2d at 555 (citing Bischoff v. Bd. of Trustees, 661 A.2d 167, 170 (Me. 1990)). The burden of proof rests with the party seeking to overturn the agency's decision, and that party must prove that no competent evidence supports the agency's decision. See Id.

         The hearing officer's determination that the officer had probable cause to believe that Mr. Lancaster had operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants is supported by substantial evidence. "The probable cause standard for requiring a person to take a blood-alcohol test has a very low threshold." State v. Webster, 2000 ME 115, ¶ 7, 754 A.2d 976, 977-78. A person is guilty of operating under the influence if his or her senses are "impaired however slightly" or "to any extent" by the alcohol that person has had to drink. See State v. Worster, 611 A.2d979, 981 (Me. 1992).

         The record in this case shows:

• Mr. Lancaster's vehicle was on its side in a ditch, but he said he had not been speeding and had no difficulty seeing the road despite the fog;
• Mr. Lancaster repeatedly stated that he had not been injured in the accident, refused medical attention, and the deputy did not observe any signs of injury;
• The deputy and the trooper could smell the odor of intoxicating liquor on Mr. Lancaster;
• The deputy noticed that Mr. Lancaster had slurred speech and glassy eyes;
• The deputy noticed that Mr. Lancaster had a hard time focusing on what was being said;
• The deputy had to repeatedly tell Mr. Lancaster to keep his hands out of his pockets, to put his arms down from over his head, and to get out of the middle of the road;
• The deputy detected two clues during the HGN test, which could not be completed because Mr. Lancaster did ...

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