State v. Geise

Decision Date23 December 2002
Docket NumberNo. 22368.,22368.
Citation2002 SD 161,656 N.W.2d 30
PartiesSTATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Daniel Arthur GEISE, David Lee Clausen, and Roland J. Clausen, Defendants and Appellants.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Mark Barnett, Attorney General, Jason A. Glodt, Assistant Attorney General, Pierre, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

Ronald G. Schmidt, Rapid City, Attorney for defendants and appellants.

KONENKAMP, Justice.

[¶ 1.] Daniel Geise, Roland Clausen and David Clausen were convicted of violating South Dakota's motor vehicle overweight statutes and were assessed civil penalties. They appeal on multiple issues, challenging the constitutionality and applicability of the provisions of SDCL ch. 32-22. We affirm.

Background

[¶ 2.] On December 28, 1999, Clausen Construction was returning three Caterpillar Model 627 scrapers from a construction site near South Shore in Codington County to Clark, South Dakota. Traveling in a convoy, Daniel Geise was operating a tractor-trailer combination, which was hauling one of the Cat 627 scrapers, while Roland Clausen and David Clausen drove the other two Cat 627 scrapers. Around 11:20 a.m., Highway Patrol Officer Dale Kotzea stopped the convoy on County Highway 4 near its intersection with County Highway 11 and requested the proper single trip overweight permits. Neither Geise nor the Clausens had permits. Officer Kotzea decided to weigh the vehicles and called for assistance. Soon thereafter, three more troopers arrived on the scene to assist in weighing the vehicles with portable scales.

[¶ 3.] The tractor-trailer combination operated by Geise had seven axles. Specifically, the tractor had a steering axle and triple tandem axles located under the front of the trailer. Similarly, the trailer had triple tandem axles to the rear. The individual axle weights were as follows:

Axle 1 6,100 pounds Axle 2 17,400 pounds Axle 3 13,900 pounds Axle 4 15,250 pounds Axle 5 19,700 pounds Axle 6 20,050 pounds Axle 7 19,800 pounds

[¶ 4.] Thereafter, the Highway Patrol used a computer generated illustration to determine the weights and possible fines. In doing so, Officer Kotzea measured various axle groups within the outer most axles to determine whether any overweight violations existed under the "bridge formula" codified in SDCL 32-22-16.1. Officer Kotzea measured the length between the second and seventh axles on Geise's tractor-trailer as 52 feet with a total of six axles measured in the axle group. The total weight of the axle bridge 2-7, 106,100 pounds, was calculated by adding the individual weights of Axles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. According to the bridge formula, the maximum weight limit for the "bridge" or span between Axles 2 and 7 on Geise's tractor-trailer was 85,000 pounds. Because the bridge weighed 106,100 pounds, the legal limit was exceeded by 21,100 pounds (106,100-85,000 = 21,100). Under SDCL 32-22-55, Geise was subject to a civil penalty of 37.5 cents per pound for 21,100 pounds for a total of $7,912.50. Under SDCL 32-22-56 (now repealed), the civil penalty would be doubled to $15,958. He was also subject to a penal fine of $133.

[¶ 5.] Similarly, the troopers prepared computer generated illustrations of the weights, violations, and possible fines related to the two scrapers. Both Cat 627 scrapers had two axles that were spaced 24 feet apart. Using the "bridge formula," the troopers calculated that the maximum allowable weight for each scraper was 40,000 pounds (20,000 pounds per axle). Both scrapers were well over the allowable weight limit. The gross weight of the first scraper driven by Roland Clausen totaled 66,250 pounds, with Axle 1 weighing 36,000 pounds and Axle 2 weighing 30,250 pounds. Roland Clausen was subject to a civil penalty of 37.5 cents per pound for 26,250 pounds for a total of $9,843.75. Under former SDCL 32-22-56, the penalty would be doubled to $19,820.50, and his penal fine would be $133.

[¶ 6.] The second scraper driven by David Clausen weighed in at 39,400 pounds on Axle 1 and 31,000 pounds on Axle 2. David Clausen was subject to a civil penalty of 37.5 cents per pound for 30,400 pounds for a total of $11,400. Under former SDCL 32-22-56, this penalty would be doubled to $22,800. He was also subject to a penal fine of $133. [¶ 7.] After Geise and the Clausens were stopped and cited for overweight violations, they were issued permits by the Highway Patrol. Each permit was valid for one day of travel on the state highways specified and required the scrapers to be hauled rather than driven on the highway. The Codington County Highway Superintendent, Rick Small, also issued a permit to allow travel on specified county roads.

[¶ 8.] In court, Daniel Geise, Roland Clausen and David Clausen moved to dismiss the double penalties. The circuit court ruled that the double penalties under SDCL 32-22-56 did not apply.1 After eliminating the doubling of the civil penalties, the circuit court convicted Daniel Geise, Roland Clausen and David Clausen of overweight violations and assessed their penalties at $7912.50, $9843.75, and $11,400 respectively. In addition, they were each assessed costs of $30.

[¶ 9.] All three defendants now appeal on the following issues: (1) "Whether a `group' of axles for purposes of SDCL §§ 32-22-16(3), 32-22-16.1 and 32-22-55 includes a so-called `bridge' of axles in light of the Highway Patrol's own interpretation and classification of the axles on Appellants' vehicles and State v. Young, 2001 SD 76, 630 N.W.2d 85." (2) "Whether the State properly charged Appellants Clausen and Clausen who were driving single-axle scrapers and given `warning' tickets for alleged violations of SDCL § 32-22-16(1) governing the allowable weight on any `one axle,' and who were charged under §§ 32-33-16(3) and 32-22-16.1 which govern the allowable weight on any `group of two or more consecutive axles.'" (3) "Whether there is any rational legal basis under SDCL §§ 32-22-16(3) and 32-22-16.1 to charge the two scrapers with overweight since they are supported by unconventionally wide tire configurations, and the South Dakota Department of Transportation recognizes that the effects of such tire configurations are not known and it is impossible to determine whether present weight regulations are too strict, too loose, or appropriate." (4) "Whether this Court should reconsider its holding in State v. Feiok, 364 N.W.2d 536 (S.D.1985) that SDCL § 32-22-55 is civil in nature and that the state does not have to prove actual damage to the highway by the overweight vehicle, due to its having overlooked and/or miscomprehended § 32-22-43 and 48 which impose civil liability in separate proceedings for any actual damages caused to the highway which would allow a double recovery, and the DOT research project mentioned in the previous issue." (5) "Whether the overweight provisions of SDCL § 32-22 are facially unconstitutional because of unequal penalties for identical violations contrary to Art. VI, § 18 of the South Dakota Constitution, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution." (6) "Whether Chapter 32-22 is unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious and/or discriminatory and violative of equal protection guarantees as applied to permit vs. non-permit vehicles." (7) "Whether due to changed circumstances since this Court's divided opinion in Feiok, supra, SDCL § 32-22-55 must be deemed so punitive either in purpose, or in effect as to negate the Legislature's intention to impose purely a civil penalty in light of the very substantial fines imposed against Appellants, in light of the auction value of the scrapers of $21,390, and other factors not considered by this Court in the Feiok, supra, decision." (8) "A fine/penalty of $11,400, $9,843.75 or $7,912.50 for a single Class 2 misdemeanor violation is so grossly excessive, and/or manifestly disproportionate to the crime as violative of the due process prohibition against the taking of property under South Dakota Constitution Art. VI, § 2, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and/or additionally, contrary to the prohibition against excessive fines in South Dakota Constitution Art. VI, § 23 and the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

Standard of Review

[¶ 10.] We review questions of law, such as statutory construction and constitutional challenges, de novo. State v. Barton, 2001 SD 52, ¶ 8, 625 N.W.2d 275, 278. The primary purpose of statutory construction is to determine the intent of the law. Id. Intent is ordinarily ascertained by examining the express language of the statute. Faircloth v. Raven Industries, Inc., 2000 SD 158, ¶ 6, 620 N.W.2d 198, 201. We therefore defer to the text where possible. Id. We read statutes as a whole along with the enactments relating to the same subject. Kayser v. South Dakota State Elec. Comm'n, 512 N.W.2d 746, 747 (S.D.1994) (citations omitted). We assume that the Legislature intended that no part of its statutory scheme be rendered mere surplusage. Nat'l Farmers Union Prop. and Cas. Co. v. Universal Underwriters Ins. Co., 534 N.W.2d 63, 65 (citing Revier v. School Bd. of Sioux Falls, 300 N.W.2d 55, 57 (S.D.1981)); 2A Norman J. Singer, Sutherland Statutory Construction § 46.07, 205 (6th ed 2000). Likewise, when an asserted error implicates an infringement of a constitutional right, we employ a de novo standard of review. State v. Dillon, 2001 SD 97, ¶ 12, 632 N.W.2d 37, 43.

Analysis and Decision
1. Group of Axles

[¶ 11.] Defendants argue that the term "bridge" does not appear in SDCL 32-22-16(3), 32-22-16.1, or 32-22-55. They ask this Court to define the term "group" as used in these statutes. Although we have never specifically addressed whether a person can be found in violation of a "bridge" weight, when the statutes in SDCL ch. 32-22 never mention the term "bridge" and instead use the...

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  • State v. Armstrong
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • January 29, 2020
    ...social medium, directly to the object of the threat." [¶16.] We construe statutes to determine the intent of the Legislature. State v. Geise , 2002 S.D. 161, ¶ 10, 656 N.W.2d 30, 36. "The intent of the Legislature in enacting laws is ascertained primarily from the language used in the statu......
  • State v. Myrl & Roy's Paving, Inc., 22925
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • August 25, 2004
    ...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......
  • State v. Johnsen
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • September 26, 2018
    ...purposes of the overweight provisions are to protect the roads from damage and to insure the safety of the travelling public." State v. Geise , 2002 S.D. 161, ¶ 42, 656 N.W.2d 30, 43–44. [¶13.] From the language of SDCL 32-22-42.2 and related enactments, we conclude the Legislature did not ......

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