Goldsworthy v. State Dept. of Pub. Safety

Decision Date05 July 1978
Docket NumberNo. 47979.,47979.
Citation268 NW 2d 46
PartiesWilliam Alfred GOLDSWORTHY, petitioner, Appellant, v. STATE of Minnesota, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Respondent.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Meshbesher, Singer & Spence, Kenneth Meshbesher and Carol M. Grant, Minneapolis, for appellant.

Warren Spannaus, Atty. Gen., Joel A. Watne, Spec. Asst. Atty. Gen., St. Paul, for respondent.

Heard before ROGOSHESKE, TODD, and YETKA, JJ., and considered and decided by the court en banc.

YETKA, Justice.

Appeal by petitioner from an order of the Hennepin County District Court denying a petition for reinstatement of his driver's license and for a hearing pursuant to Minn.St. 169.127, subd. 2. Petitioner contends that he did not receive actual notice of the commissioner of public safety's intent to revoke his license pursuant to Minn.St. 169.127, subd. 2, and that the revocation was thus ineffective.

On August 15, 1976, petitioner was arrested for driving while intoxicated, Minn.St. 169.121, and disorderly conduct, Minn.St. 609.72. He was read an implied consent advisory1 and consented to the taking of a breath test. His blood alcohol reading was .12 percent. He was issued citations and released to a neighbor.

A letter dated December 13, 1976 was sent to petitioner's address in Minnetonka. It was sent by certified mail, and on December 15, 1976, a receipt was signed by June Goldsworthy, petitioner's wife. Ms. Goldsworthy stated in an affidavit that petitioner had been living away from Minnesota, that the notice came during petitioner's absence, and that she never gave the notice to petitioner. Petitioner stated in an affidavit that he never received notice of the state's "intention to proceed under the revocation procedures outlined in Minnesota Statute 169.127, * * *" and further claims that he has a defense to the revocation.

A revocation notice apparently mailed on January 25, 1977 appears in the record. A February 28, 1977, letter from the Department of Public Safety to the Minnetonka police also appears in the district court file. The letter asks that a duplicate revocation order be served on petitioner. On the bottom of the letter it was noted that on March 2, 1977, the order was served but that the petitioner himself was not located. The following notation was also made: "Served on Mrs. Goldsworthy — She states her husband is in New York and has license. He also knows he's revoked." On April 11, 1977, petitioner obtained an order to show cause and a temporary restraining order directing reinstatement of his license pending a hearing on the petition. The petition was denied on May 26, 1977.

The issue raised on appeal is: May a driver's license be revoked pursuant to § 169.127, subd. 2, where the notice of intent to revoke is sent by certified mail to the driver's home and signed for by his wife, but where the driver claims the notice was never given to him?

Minn.St. 169.127 provides for revocation of a driver's license whenever the results of the test given pursuant to the implied consent law, § 169.123, indicate that a driver's blood alcohol content is .10 percent or more. Minn.St. 169.127, subd. 2, provides:

"The commissioner of public safety shall revoke for a period of 90 days the driver\'s license, permit or nonresident operating privileges of any person whose blood contains .10 percent or more by weight of alcohol upon the receipt of a record of the blood, breath or urine test administered by or at the direction of a peace officer pursuant to section 169.123. No revocation shall be made until the commissioner of public safety notifies the person by certified or registered mail of the intention to revoke and allows the person a 20 day period after the date of receiving the notice to request of the commissioner of public safety in writing, a hearing as herein provided. If a request for hearing is filed, no revocation hereunder shall be made until final judicial determination."

The notice of intent to revoke was sent by certified mail and signed for by petitioner's wife. Both claim, by affidavit, that he never received the notice.

Petitioner raises two challenges to the revocation procedures actually used: A constitutional due process claim, and a claim based upon statutory interpretation. We first discuss the due process claim.

1. Due Process. Deprivation of the continued possession of a driver's license is subject to the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 91 S.Ct. 1586, 29 L.Ed.2d 90 (1971). The due process requirements which are applicable to driver's license suspensions are, however, flexible. In Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105, 97 S.Ct. 1723, 52 L.Ed.2d 172 (1977), the United States Supreme Court recognized the state's important interest in road safety and the prompt removal of safety hazards and held that due process did not require a full evidentiary hearing prior to an administrative revocation of a license where a full opportunity for a hearing was later provided.

Due process requires only that notice be reasonably calculated to reach interested parties. Mullane v. Central Hanover Tr. Co., 339 U.S. 306, 70 S.Ct. 652, 94 L.Ed. 865 (1950); Berkman v. Weckerling, 247 Minn. 277, 77 N.W.2d 291 (1956). In Walker Employment Service, Inc. v. Swanson, 278 Minn. 368, 154 N.W.2d 823 (1967), this court held that substituted service of process on a defendant's wife in a civil action was proper, despite the fact that the defendant had left 6 hours earlier to assume a job in another state. The defendant sought to vacate service of process on the ground that the Minnesota residence was not his "usual place of abode."2 This court held that the Minnesota home continued to be his usual place of abode because his wife remained in the home to further their mutual interest. We further held that Rule 4.03(a), Rules of Civil Procedure, was sufficient to comply with Federal constitutional requirements. See, also, Peterson v. W. Davis & Sons, 216 Minn. 60, 11 N.W.2d 800 (1943), which holds that substituted service on a wife is effective despite the fact that the recipient did not understand the significance of the papers served on her.

In the present case, the statute does not specifically provide for substituted service but instead provides for notification by registered or certified mail. The use of registered or certified mail fills the function of insuring receipt by a person of suitable age or discretion at the person's last known address and is thus reasonably calculated to provide notice to the affected person. There is no issue in the present case, as in many of ...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT