State v. Myrl & Roy's Paving, Inc., 22925

Decision Date25 August 2004
Docket NumberNo. 22925,22925
Citation2004 SD 98,686 NW 2d 651
PartiesSTATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. MYRL & ROY'S PAVING, INC., Defendant and Appellant.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

LAWRENCE E. LONG, Attorney General, CRAIG M. EICHSTADT, Deputy Attorney General, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

RONALD G. SCHMIDT of Schmidt, Schroyer & Moreno, Rapid City, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

GILBERTSON, Chief Justice.

[¶1.] After a driver was stopped and charged for operating an overweight vehicle in violation of various provisions of SDCL Chapter 32-22, the State brought charges against Myrl & Roy's Paving, Inc. (Myrl & Roy's) as owner of the vehicle. A magistrate found Myrl & Roy's guilty on five counts of violating SDCL 32-22-16 and one count of violating SDCL 32-22-52. The magistrate further imposed a civil penalty pursuant to SDCL 32-22-55. The circuit court affirmed the magistrate's judgment, and Myrl & Roy's now appeals. Affirmed.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

[¶2.] Myrl & Roy's is a large corporation engaged in construction primarily in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area. As part of its business, it owns rock quarry operations as well as several multi-axle motor vehicles used to haul heavy loads. On August 17, 2001, Jericho Dede (Dede), an employee of Myrl & Roy's, was hauling asphalt mix for a paving project at the Sioux Falls airport. Dede obtained the mix from an asphalt plant located in one of Myrl & Roy's pits. In order to obtain the asphalt mix, Dede drove under a silo which made a series of drops into the truck. Before Dede drove under the silo, however, another driver had sensed his truck was overweight, and some of the mix from his truck was placed in Dede's vehicle at the direction of an on-site manager. Dede proceeded to obtain the usual amount of asphalt mix from the silo despite the fact that he already had some amount of material in his truck. Dede also declined to weigh his truck on a platform scale located near an exit of the pit.

[¶3.] After Dede left the plant, an officer with the Sioux Falls police department stopped his truck and determined that the four axle vehicle was overweight. The following chart illustrates the individual axle weights in pounds:

Total Weight Legal Weight Amount Over Axle 1 10,980 14,400 Legal Axle 2 10,560 11,000 Legal Axle 3 21,380 20,000 1,380 Axle 4 21,060 20,000 1,060 Gross Weight 63,980 54,500 9,480

The State subsequently charged Dede with numerous violations of SDCL 32-22.1

[¶4.] As owner of the overweight vehicle, the State also charged Myrl & Roy's with the following violations:

Count I: Overweight in excess of 20,000 lbs. on one axle in violation of SDCL 32-22-16(1)

Count II: Overweight in excess of 20,000 lbs. on one axle in violation of SDCL 32-22-16(1)

Count III: Overweight on tandem axles in violation of SDCL 32-22-16(3)

Count IV: Overweight on two or more consecutive axles in violation of SDCL 32-22-16(3)

Count V: Overweight on two or more consecutive axles in violation of SDCL 32-22-16(3)

Count VI: Operating vehicle with cut or worn tires in violation of SDCL 32-19-13

Count VII: Operation of oversize or overweight vehicle in violation of SDCL 32-22-52

A magistrate judge found Myrl & Roy's guilty on Counts I and II because axles 3 and 4 were individually overweight. Because axles 3 and 4 were cumulatively overweight, Myrl & Roy's was guilty on Count III. Similarly, the magistrate judge determined Myrl & Roy's to be guilty on Counts IV and V because axles 2, 3, and 4, as well as axles 1, 2, 3, and 4 (the gross weight of the vehicle) were cumulatively overweight. Myrl and Roy's was found not guilty on Count VI. Finally, the magistrate found Myrl & Roy's guilty on Count VII because the gross weight of the vehicle exceeded the legal limit. The magistrate also imposed a civil penalty pursuant to SDCL 32-22-55.

[¶5.] The circuit court affirmed the judgment of the magistrate and found that the overweight statutes apply to owners as well as drivers. The circuit court further determined there was no double jeopardy violation because the gross weight of the vehicle along with each set of axle violations involved separate, distinct violations of South Dakota's overweight statutes. Myrl & Roy's now appeals and raises the following issues for our review:

1. Whether SDCL 32-22-16 and 32-22-55 applied to Myrl & Roy's as owner of the overweight vehicle.
2. Whether the penalties under SDCL 32-22-16 and 32-22-52 subjected Myrl & Roy's to double jeopardy in violation of Article IX, Section 9 of the South Dakota Constitution.
STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶6.] This case presents issues involving statutory construction, and as such our review is de novo. Zoss v. Schaefers, 1999 SD 105, ¶6, 598 NW2d 550, 552 (citing Satellite Cable Srvs. v. Northern Electric, 1998 SD 67, ¶5, 581 NW2d 478, 480). We employ the following well-settled principles in our interpretation of legislative enactments:

The purpose of statutory construction is to discover the true intention of the law which is to be ascertained primarily from the language expressed in the statute. The intent of a statute is determined from what the legislature said, rather than what the courts think it should have said, and the court must confine itself to the language used. Words and phrases in a statute must be given their plain meaning and effect. When the language in a statute is clear, certain and unambiguous, there is no reason for construction, and the Court's only function is to declare the meaning of the statute as clearly expressed. Since statutes must be construed according to their intent, the intent must be determined from the statute as a whole, as well as enactments relating to the same subject. But, in construing statutes together it is presumed that the legislature did not intend an absurd or unreasonable result.

Martinmaas v. Engelmann, 2000 SD 85, ¶49, 612 NW2d 600, 611 (citation omitted).

ANALYSIS AND DECISION

[¶7.] 1. Whether SDCL 32-22-16 and 32-22-55 applied to Myrl & Roy's as corporate owner of the overweight vehicle.

[¶8.] The magistrate and circuit court determined that SDCL 32-22-16, 32-22-52, and 32-22-55 applied to Myrl & Roy's as the owner of the overweight vehicle. Myrl & Roy's concedes the application of 32-22-52 but argues 32-22-16 and 32-22-55 apply solely to the driver of the overweight vehicle and not to the owner of such a vehicle. SDCL 32-22-16 provides, in pertinent part:

No motor vehicle or combination of vehicles operating on a public highway may have a weight:
(1) In excess of twenty thousand pounds on any one axle, or in excess of the tire weight per inch of tire width prescribed by § 32-22-21, including all enforcement tolerances;
. . . .
(3) In excess of the maximum weight on two or more consecutive axles as determined by the formula detailed in § 32-22-16.1, or in excess of the tire weight per inch of tire width prescribed by § 32-22-21. However, in no instance may the gross weight of any vehicle or combination of vehicles exceed eighty thousand pounds on the interstate highway.

(emphasis added). The relevant part of SDCL 32-22-55, a civil penalty statute, states:

Any person who is convicted of the offense of operating a motor vehicle upon the public highways of this state with weight upon any wheel, axle, or groups of axles or upon more than one thereof greater than the maximum permitted by §§ 32-22-2 to 32-22-33, inclusive, 32-22-47 and 32-22-48 shall be fined in addition to, and not in substitution for, any other penalties now provided by law for such offense . . .

(emphasis added). See State v. Feiok, 364 NW2d 536 (SD 1985) (determining SDCL 32-22-55 to be a civil penalty in reasonable relation to the State's goal of enforcing the weight restrictions set forth in its statutes).

[¶9.] The question of whether SDCL 32-22-16 and 32-22-55 apply to owners as well as drivers of overweight vehicles turns on our interpretation of the term "operating" found in both statutes.2 At the outset, we note the fact that neither statute specifically mentions the words "owner" is clearly not dispositive. While neither SDCL 32-22-16 nor 32-22-55 contains the term "driver," this Court has consistently upheld the application of the statutes and their respective penalties to drivers of overweight vehicles. See State v. Krahwinkel, 2002 SD 160, 656 NW2d 451; State v. Geise, 2002 SD 161, 656 NW2d 30; Feiok, 364 NW2d 536. The legislature certainly did not intend for the statutes to apply to no one. By their own specific terms, the statutes are not limited in application to either drivers or owners.

[¶10.] The intent of a statute "must be determined from the statute as a whole." Engelmann, 2000 SD 85, ¶49, 612 NW2d at 611. We believe the manner in which the statutes establish liability suggests the legislature intended for SDCL 32-22-16 and 32-22-55 to apply to the owners of overweight vehicles as well as drivers. First, it is noteworthy that unlike most other criminal statutes that prohibit "a person" from engaging in certain proscribed conduct, SDCL 32-22-16 simply prohibits "vehicles operating" with excessive weight. So also, SDCL 32-22-55 which imposes liability upon any person convicted of that SDCL 32-22-16 "operating" offense. Thus, the statutes leave room for any person who is engaged in vehicle operations. Second, it is important to note that as strict liability statutes designed to protect the integrity of our roads in South Dakota, SDCL 32-22-16 and 32-22-55 do not require the State to establish any element of intent or malfeasance. See also Krahwinkel, 2002 SD 160, ¶37, 656 NW2d at 464 (holding, inter alia, "that actual damage is not a condition precedent to the imposition of a civil penalty."). The State need only prove that a vehicle is overweight in order to bring criminal charges under SDCL 32-22-16 and impose a civil fine pursuant to SDCL 32-22-55. Thus, the...

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