Martin v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, No. 94,033.

Decision Date01 February 2008
Docket NumberNo. 94,033.
Citation285 Kan. 625,176 P.3d 938
PartiesThomas J.G. MARTIN, Appellee, v. KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Appellant.
CourtKansas Supreme Court

Keller, was with him on the briefs for appellant.

Michael A. Millett, of Law Offices of Michael A. Millett, P.A., of Overland Park, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellee.

Douglas E. Wells, of Topeka, was on the brief for amicus curiae Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The opinion of the court was delivered by BEIER, J.:

This case addresses whether, when, and to what effect a Kansas driver may contest an alcohol and/or drug-based administrative license suspension arising out of a law enforcement traffic stop allegedly violating the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and § 15 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

This case began when plaintiff Thomas J.G. Martin was pulled over by Officer Christopher Wilson of the Prairie Village Police Department in August 2002. The parties have stipulated that Martin was under the influence at the time, but there had been nothing about Martin's driving that alerted the officer to this fact. Rather, Wilson stopped Martin because of a malfunctioning rear brake light. At the time, Wilson believed the malfunctioning light to be in violation of the law, even though two other rear brake lights on Martin's vehicle were working.

After the stop, Wilson became suspicious that Martin had been drinking. Martin failed field sobriety tests, refused a preliminary breath test, and later failed a chemical breath test at the police station. The chemical breath test result led Kansas Department of Revenue (Department) to suspend Martin's driver's license. Notes from Martin's administrative hearing on the suspension show that Martin attempted unsuccessfully to argue the unconstitutionality of the traffic stop before the Department.

Martin sought review in the district court, where the judge reversed the license suspension, holding that Wilson misinterpreted the law governing brake lights and that this misinterpretation meant he lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate Martin's stop.

A panel of our Court of Appeals overturned the district court decision, agreeing with the Department that the propriety of a traffic stop is irrelevant in a driver's license suspension hearing. Martin v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, 36 Kan.App,2d 561, 567, 142 P.3d 735 (2006). The panel focused on the fundamental differences between such an administrative proceeding and a criminal prosecution, noting in particular that the purpose of the former is remedial and the latter, punishment. 36 Kan.App.2d at 564-65, 142 P.3d 735 (citing Huelsman v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, 267 Kan. 456, 457, 980 P.2d 1022 [1999]; Meehan v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, 25 Kan.App.2d 183, 188, 959 P.2d 940, rev. denied 265 Kan. 885 [1998] ).

The panel then turned to the language of K.S.A. 8-1020(h)(2), evaluating it "[a]gainst this backdrop." 36 Kan.App.2d at 565, 142 P.3d 735. This portion of the statute reads:

"If the officer certifies that the person failed a breath test, the scope of the hearing shall be limited to whether:

(A) A law enforcement officer had reasonable grounds to believe the person was operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, or had been driving a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in K.S.A. 8-2,128, and amendments thereto, while having alcohol or other drugs in such person's system;

(B) the person was in custody or arrested for an alcohol or drug related offense or was involved in a vehicle accident or collision resulting in property damage, personal injury or death;

(C) a law enforcement officer had presented the person with the oral and written notice required by K.S.A. 8-1001, and amendments thereto;

(D) the testing equipment used was certified by the Kansas department of health and environment;

(E) the person who operated the testing equipment was certified by the Kansas department of health and environment (F) the testing procedures used substantially complied with the procedures set out by the Kansas department of health and environment;

(G) the test result determined that the person had an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater in such person's breath; and

(H) the person was operating or attempting to operate a vehicle." K.S.A. 8-1020(h)(2).

The panel concluded that this list clearly and unambiguously expresses the legislature's intention to limit the issues that can be raised at an administrative license suspension hearing. Had the legislature intended to allow a more expansive inquiry before the Department, it would have said so. 36 Kan.App.2d at 565-66, 142 P.3d 735.

The panel also rejected Martin's constitutional challenge to its reading of the statute, because driving is not a right but a privilege; and administrative suspension of a driver's license for the holder's failure of a chemical breath test, to which every driver gives implied consent, is supported by government's legitimate promotion of public health, safety, and welfare. 36 Kan.App.2d at 566, 142 P.3d 735. In support of this holding, the panel noted several cases from other jurisdictions, 36 Kan.App.2d at 566-67, 142 P.3d 735 (citing Tornabene v. Bonine ex rel. Highway Dept., 203 Ariz. 326, 333, 54 P.3d 355 [CtApp.2002]; Powell v. Secretary of State, 614 A.2d 1303, 1305-06 [Me.1992]; Beavers v. State Dept. of Mtr. Vehicles, 109 Nev. 435, 438, 851 P.2d 432, cert. denied 510 U.S. 946, 114 S.Ct. 387, 126 L.Ed.2d 336 [1993]).

This court granted Martin's petition for review. To resolve tilts case, after reference to our standard of review, it is necessary for us to address whether the Department is permitted to decide the merits of a driver's constitutional challenge in an administrative hearing on license suspension; whether, even if a decision by the Department is precluded in an administrative setting, a driver may raise such a claim there; whether the limitations on searches and seizures of the Fourth Amendment and § 15 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights are implicated when the driver's license suspension rather than criminal sanction is at issue; and whether a meritorious constitutional challenge to an underlying traffic stop requires a district court to apply the exclusionary rule and reverse license suspension.

Standard of Review

Although generally an appellate court applies a substantial competent evidence standard of review when examining a district court's ruling in a driver's license suspension case, see Schoen v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, 31 Kan.App.2d 820, Syl. ¶ 1, 74 P.3d 588 (2003), the issues before us here require statutory and constitutional interpretation. These raise pure questions of law subject to unlimited review. See, e.g., Johnson v. Brooks Plumbing, 281 Kan. 1212, 1213-14, 135 P.3d 1203 (2006); Cooper v. Werholtz, 277 Kan. 250, 252, 83 P.3d 1212 (2004).

When we are called upon to interpret a statute, we first attempt to give effect to the intent of the legislature as expressed through its language. When a statute is plain and unambiguous, we do not attempt to determine what the law should or should not be; nor do we attempt to divine the legislative intent behind it. We will not read or rewrite such a statute to add something not readily found within it. If a statute is clear as written, there is no need to resort to statutory construction. Williamson v. Amrani, 283 Kan. 227, 231, 152 P.3d 60 (2007); State v. Robinson, 281 Kan. 538, 539-40, 132 P.3d 934 (2006). In short, statutory interpretation begins with the language selected by the legislature. If that language is clear, if it is unambiguous, then statutory interpretation ends there as well. Graham v. Dokter Trucking Group, 284 Kan. 547, 161 P.3d 695 (2007).

A statute is presumed constitutional and all doubts must be resolved in favor of its validity. If there is any reasonable way to construe a statute as constitutionally valid, the court must do so. This court not only has the authority, but also the duty, to construe a statute in such a manner that it is constitutional, if the same can be done within the apparent intent of the legislature in passing the statute. Kempke v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, 281 Kan. 770, Syl. ¶ 1, 133 P.3d 104 (2006). However, we may not rewrite a clear and unambiguous statute to make it pass constitutional muster. See State v. Marsh, 278 Kan. 520, 102 P.3d 445 (2004), rev'd on other grounds, Kansas v. Marsh, 548 U.S. 163, 126 S.Ct. 2516, 165 L.Ed.2d 429 (2006).

May the Department Decide a Constitutional Claim?

In the administrative hearing, Martin sought a decision on the merits of his constitutional challenge to Wilson's decision to pull him over. Martin alleged that the traffic stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion, as it must be under both the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and § 15 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. See K.S.A. 22-2402(1); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968); State v. Schultz, 252 Kan. 819, 824, 850 P.2d 818 (1993) (§ 15 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights identical in scope to Fourth Amendment).

In Cross v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, 279 Kan. 501, 110 P.3d 438 (2005), this court set out a comprehensive overview of the provisions of Kansas' Implied Consent Law, K.S.A. 8-1001 et seq., of which K.S.A. 8-1020(h)(2)(A)-(H) is a part. We need not repeat that overview here. Rather, we note only that, when a driver refuses or fails a test to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs in the driver's body, a law enforcement certification must be prepared and signed by one or more officers. Cross, 279 Kan. at 504-05, 110 P.3d 438 (citing K.S.A. 8-1002[a][2] ). The Department's Division of Vehicles reviews the certification to ensure that all requirements were met; if so, it will suspend...

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