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Carrier v. Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

May 18, 2017

BRYAN M. CARRIER, Petitioner
v.
MAINE BUREAU OF MOTOR VEHICLES, Respondent

          DECISION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM K. STOKES JUSTICE.

         The matter before the court is an appeal by the Petitioner from a decision of a hearings examiner with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles dated October 13, 2016 denying his petition for the reinstatement of his driver's license pursuant to 29-A M.R.S. §2454(5). The appeal has been brought in accordance with 5 M.R.S. §§11001-11008 (Maine Administrative Procedure Act) and M.R.Civ.P. 80C. The sole issue before the court is whether the hearings examiner committed legal error when he determined that the Petitioner's third petition for license reinstatement was "his final petition and that he has exhausted his right to petition under 29-A M.R.S. §2454(5)."

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are not in dispute. In 1996 the Petitioner, then 19, operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated and caused the deaths of three people when he collided with another vehicle. On June 13, 1997, upon his pleas of guilty to three counts of manslaughter and three counts of aggravated operating under the influence, the Petitioner was sentenced to 10 years, all but 2 years suspended with 6 years of probation, along with 2000 hours of community service and a total of $6000 in fines. The sentencing court, as part of its written sentencing opinion, noted that the Petitioner's license was suspended for life and the notice of suspension referred to in the judgment and commitment specified a lifetime suspension. Carrier v. Secretary of State, 2012 ME 142, ¶¶ 2, 3, 60 a.3d 1241.

         As a result of the manslaughter convictions, the Petitioner's driver's license was suspended for life as mandated by 29-A M.R.S. §2454(2).[1] Notwithstanding the language of section 2454(2) that the Petitioner's license must be revoked "permanently" by the Secretary of State, subsection 5 of that same law provides a mechanism for the Petitioner to apply for the reinstatement of his license. It provides as follows:

A person whose license is permanently revoked under subsection 2 may petition the Secretary of State for relicensure 10 years after the date the person is no longer incarcerated. The Secretary of State shall make the person's petition for relicensure known to the family of any victims of the person's offense and shall consider the family's testimony in determining whether to reissue the person a driver's license.

         The Petitioner was released from incarceration on March 30, 1999. He filed his first petition for relicensure on February 18, 2009 and a hearing on that petition was held on April 28, 2009. (Administrative Record at Tab 19, Exhibit 14) The petition was denied and the denial was appealed to the superior court, which remanded the matter for further findings of fact and conclusions of law. (A.R., Tab 20, Exhibit 15) On remand the hearing officer again denied the petition and the superior court affirmed. (A.R. at Tabs 21, 22, Exhibits 16, 17) In her decision after remand the hearing officer recommended that the Secretary of State not consider another application from the Petitioner "for at least two years from the date of the original petition." (Exhibit 16).

         In 2011 the Petitioner filed his second application with the Secretary of State for reissuance of his driver's license. A hearing was held on June 30, 2011 and the petition was gain denied in a decision dated July 29, 2011. In making that decision the hearing officer made detailed findings of fact in support of denying the petition. In addition, however, the hearing officer concluded that he had no authority to issue a license to the Petitioner because the sentencing court had suspended the Petitioner's license for life as part of his sentences for multiple counts of manslaughter. (Exhibit 18, Tab 23) The denial of the Petitioner's reinstatement request was affirmed on appeal to the superior court. (Exhibit 19, Tab 24) The Petitioner appealed to the Law Court.

         In Carrier v. Secretary of State, supra, the Law Court held that the reinstatement statute - 29-A M.R.S. §2454(5) - unambiguously requires the hearing officer to consider the testimony of the victims and their families. The Court rejected the Petitioner's argument that the victims and their families held a virtual "veto" over his reinstatement petition, stating as follows:

Carrier has the opportunity to petition for reinstatement in the future. He must present evidence that he has earned the opportunity to drive in spite of his horrendous behavior and its disastrous consequences to the victims and their families. Perhaps he can make a stronger case than his need to drive or his capacity to be a safe driver. The ultimate decision will be up to the Secretary of State and not the victims or their families, but their opinions must be considered then just as they were here. Driving in Maine is not a right, but a privilege, and Carrier must show that he as earned that privilege.

2012 ME 142, ¶ 16 (citation omitted)

         On August 5, 2016 the Petitioner submitted his third request with the Secretary of State for reissuance of his driver's license. (Exhibit 9) A hearing on the petition was held on September 26, 2016. (Exhibits 5, 10) The hearing officer issued a written Decision on October 13, 2016 concluding as follows:

The State interest, along with Mr. Carrier's own actions, and lack thereof, since 2011, and the compelling testimony of [the victims and victims' relatives] outweigh Mr. Carrier's need and desire to drive on Maine's roads. Therefore I deny his petition for reinstatement. Mr. Carrier's petition, his third, had been allowed explicitly by order of the Law Court. I consider this to be ...

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