Stalnaker v. Roberts, Nos. 15176

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtNEELY
Citation287 S.E.2d 166,168 W.Va. 593
PartiesWilliam Bryce STALNAKER v. Virginia L. ROBERTS, Com'r, etc. STATE ex rel. Lawrence L. PARRISH v. Virginia L. ROBERTS, Com'r, etc.
Docket Number15358,Nos. 15176
Decision Date18 December 1981

Page 166

287 S.E.2d 166
168 W.Va. 593
William Bryce STALNAKER
v.
Virginia L. ROBERTS, Com'r, etc.
STATE ex rel. Lawrence L. PARRISH
v.
Virginia L. ROBERTS, Com'r, etc.
Nos. 15176, 15358.
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
Dec. 18, 1981.
Rehearing Denied Feb. 23, 1982.

Syllabus by the Court

The proper forum for attacking the constitutional validity of a prior traffic offense conviction when that offense is the foundation for adverse administrative action by the commissioner of motor vehicles is the county in which such a conviction was initially rendered if the conviction is a West Virginia conviction, or the state courts of the state in which the conviction was initially rendered if it is an out-of-state conviction. To the extent that State ex rel. Vance v. Arthur, 142 W.Va. 737, 98 S.E.2d 418 (1957) and State ex rel. Lemley v. Roberts, W.Va., 260 S.E.2d 850 (1979) are to the contrary, they are overruled.

Chauncey H. Browning, Atty. Gen. and S. Clark Woodroe, Asst. Atty. Gen., Charleston, for appellant.

Albright, Fluharty, Bradley & Townsend, Joseph P. Albright and Robert A. Ellison, Parkersburg, for appellee Stalnaker.

Sullivan & Cowan, John J. Cowan and George Castelle, Charleston, for appellee Parrish.

[168 W.Va. 594] NEELY, Justice:

These two appeals by the State of West Virginia present the question of the appropriate forum for a collateral attack upon old traffic convictions. Under W.Va.Code, 17C-5-2 [1976] the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles is required to revoke the driver's license of any person convicted of drunk driving, and the period of revocation is determined by the number of convictions that the person has. Consequently, the validity

Page 167

of prior, unappealed, and frequently uncontested convictions becomes an issue of compelling concern to a person who is about to lose his driver's license for ten years as a result of three successive drunk driving offenses.

Under our case of State ex rel. Vance v. Arthur, 142 W.Va. 737, 98 S.E.2d 418 (1957) and the more recent case of State ex rel. Lemley v. Roberts, W.Va., 260 S.E.2d 850 (1979) the prior convictions can be challenged in a mandamus proceeding against the commissioner of motor vehicles brought in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. The State asserts in this appeal that the Circuit Court of Kanawha County is both an inappropriate and inconvenient forum for this type of litigation and that both Vance and Lemley should be overruled. We agree.

In both of the cases before us the appellees brought successful mandamus proceedings against the commissioner of motor vehicles in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. Both sought reinstatement of their driving privileges, which had been revoked by the commissioner. The Circuit Court of Kanawha County permitted each appellee to present evidence attacking the constitutional validity of his prior traffic convictions upon which the commissioner's revocation was predicated.

Appellee William Stalnaker had been convicted of drunk driving in Chesterfield County, Virginia, on 2 August 1974. On 27 June 1975 he was arrested in Hinton, West Virginia for drunk driving. He was released from jail upon the posting of $106.00 bond. He did not appear for trial in the City Police Court of Hinton on 7 July 1975 and his bail was [168 W.Va. 595] forfeited. Pursuant to W.Va.Code, 17B-3-4 [1951] an abstract of the court record indicating that he had forfeited bail for the offense of drunk driving was sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Code, 17B-3-4 [1951] provides that "a forfeiture of bail ... shall be equivalent to a conviction." The commissioner revoked Mr. Stalnaker's license pursuant to W.Va.Code, 17B-3-5 [1951] and petitioner brought an action in mandamus against the commissioner to require reinstatement of his license on the grounds that his forfeiture of bail in Hinton was constitutionally infirm. Mr. Stalnaker testified below that he had not been informed of his trial date. The Circuit Court of Kanawha County concluded that the police court conviction was void because Mr. Stalnaker had not pleaded guilty in accordance with either of Call v. McKenzie, W.Va., 220 S.E.2d 665 (1975) or W.Va.Code, 62-3-1a [1965], and issued the writ directing the commissioner to reinstate Mr. Stalnaker's license.

Appellee Lawrence Parrish was a North Carolina resident with a North Carolina driver's license when he was convicted of drunk driving on 4 April 1978 and again on 24 July 1978. Mr. Parrish pled guilty to both charges of drunk driving in district courts of North Carolina. In both cases he was not represented by counsel. As a result of the second conviction his license was suspended for a period of four years. Mr. Parrish subsequently moved to West Virginia where he applied for a driver's license. When the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles discovered that his North Carolina license had been revoked for drunk driving the department revoked his West Virginia license for ten years. Mr. Parrish then brought a mandamus action in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County where he successfully attacked the North Carolina convictions because he had...

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24 practice notes
  • Beane v. Dailey, No. 34630.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 1 Abril 2010
    ...Syl. Pt. 3, State ex rel. Lemley v. Roberts, 164 W.Va. 457, 260 S.E.2d 850 (1979), overruled on other grounds by Stalnaker v. Roberts, 168 W.Va. 593, 287 S.E.2d 166 (1981)." Syllabus Point 5, State ex rel. Farber v. Mazzone, 213 W.Va. 661, 584 S.E.2d 517 (2003). 3. "A default decree rendere......
  • Allen v. State, Human Rights Com'n, No. 16303
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 6 Diciembre 1984
    ...(W.Va.1981); Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. Lemley v. Roberts, 260 S.E.2d 850 (W.Va.1979), overruled on other grounds, Stalnaker v. Roberts, 287 S.E.2d 166, 169 (W.Va.1981); Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. Board of Education v. Dyer, 154 W.Va. 840, 179 S.E.2d 577 (1971); Syl. pt. 2, State ex rel. C.J.......
  • Frazier v. Talbert, No. 20-0134
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 15 Junio 2021
    ...the public highways as quickly as possible"); Shell v. Bechtold, 175 W.Va. 792, 796, 338 S.E.2d 393, 396 (1985) ; Stalnaker v. Roberts, 168 W.Va. 593, 599, 287 S.E.2d 166, 169 (1981). The objective in an administrative revocation proceeding is the removal of " ‘substance-affected drivers fr......
  • Larsen v. Department of Motor Vehicles, No. G013735
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 28 Abril 1994
    ...[collateral attack on underlying convictions not permitted in action contesting driver's license suspension]; Stalnaker v. Roberts (1981) 168 W.Va. 593, 287 S.E.2d 166 [collateral attack on priors in driver's license suspension proceedings not allowed--"We are dealing [with] an administrati......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • Beane v. Dailey, No. 34630.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 1 Abril 2010
    ...Syl. Pt. 3, State ex rel. Lemley v. Roberts, 164 W.Va. 457, 260 S.E.2d 850 (1979), overruled on other grounds by Stalnaker v. Roberts, 168 W.Va. 593, 287 S.E.2d 166 (1981)." Syllabus Point 5, State ex rel. Farber v. Mazzone, 213 W.Va. 661, 584 S.E.2d 517 (2003). 3. "A default decree rendere......
  • Allen v. State, Human Rights Com'n, No. 16303
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 6 Diciembre 1984
    ...(W.Va.1981); Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. Lemley v. Roberts, 260 S.E.2d 850 (W.Va.1979), overruled on other grounds, Stalnaker v. Roberts, 287 S.E.2d 166, 169 (W.Va.1981); Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. Board of Education v. Dyer, 154 W.Va. 840, 179 S.E.2d 577 (1971); Syl. pt. 2, State ex rel. C.J.......
  • Frazier v. Talbert, No. 20-0134
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 15 Junio 2021
    ...the public highways as quickly as possible"); Shell v. Bechtold, 175 W.Va. 792, 796, 338 S.E.2d 393, 396 (1985) ; Stalnaker v. Roberts, 168 W.Va. 593, 599, 287 S.E.2d 166, 169 (1981). The objective in an administrative revocation proceeding is the removal of " ‘substance-affected drivers fr......
  • Larsen v. Department of Motor Vehicles, No. G013735
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 28 Abril 1994
    ...[collateral attack on underlying convictions not permitted in action contesting driver's license suspension]; Stalnaker v. Roberts (1981) 168 W.Va. 593, 287 S.E.2d 166 [collateral attack on priors in driver's license suspension proceedings not allowed--"We are dealing [with] an administrati......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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