High Court Reverses DWI Case

OCEAN CITY — The state’s highest court last week reversed a lower court’s decision on the validity of a Pasadena man’s driver’s license suspension following a driving under the influence of alcohol arrest in Ocean City.

On May 19, 2009, Ocean City Police stopped Frank Loane, Jr. for failing to obey lane directions. Upon making contact with Loane, the officer detected an odor of alcohol on the suspect’s breath. Loane was administered field sobriety tests, which he failed to complete to the officer’s satisfaction.

According to the facts of the case, the officer asked Loane to submit to a chemical breath test and also advised the suspect of his right to refuse the test. The officer also informed Loane of the consequences of his refusal to take the chemical breath test, but the suspect exercised his right to refusal. Loane’s driver’s license was confiscated and he was issued a temporary license while the criminal charges in and the possible Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) sanctions proceeded.

An MVA Administrative Law Judge suspended Loane’s driver’s license for the requisite 120 days pursuant to the failure to submit to the breath test. However, Loane pointed out the arresting officer indicated on the DR-15A form the stop occurred at the location of “Wor,” evidently referring to Worcester County. The exact address of the stop was not provided.

Loane then filed in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County a petition for judicial review. The Anne Arundel Circuit Court ultimately agreed the location of the stop was not identified in the report and reversed the decision of the MVA to suspend Loane’s license. The Circuit Court agreed the simple entry of “Wor” did not include substantial evidence to support the finding the traffic stop occurred on a “public highway or publicly-used private property.”

The MVA then chose to appeal the Anne Arundel Circuit Court’s decision to reverse Loane’s license suspension and a hearing was granted by the state’s Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reviewed last week the facts of the case and ruled against Loane, agreeing with the MVA the paperwork surrounding his traffic stop and subsequent drunk-driving arrest was valid.

“The Court of Appeals held that the implied consent statute does not require the MVA to prove the exact location when a suspected drunk driver was detained after driving on a highway or private property used by the public in general before suspending the motorist’s license for a test refusal,” the opinion reads. “The court reasoned that it would defy common sense for a driver to be criminally responsible for driving while intoxicated, but at the same time not be subject to administrative sanctions.”