Wingerter v. North Dakota Dept. of Transp., 940323

Decision Date19 April 1995
Docket NumberNo. 940323,940323
Citation530 N.W.2d 362
PartiesKody W. WINGERTER, Petitioner and Appellee, v. NORTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Respondent and Appellant. Civ.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Monte L. Rogneby, Asst. Atty. Gen., Bismarck, for respondent and appellant.

Thomas A. Dickson, Bismarck, for petitioner and appellee.

LEVINE, Justice.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (Department) appeals from a district court judgment reversing the Department's decision to suspend Kody W. Wingerter's driver's license for driving under the influence of alcohol. Because we hold that NDCC Sec. 39-20-03.1(3) does not require an arresting officer to forward to the Department all records accompanying a driver's blood test, but only a copy of the certified copy of the analytical report, we reverse the district court judgment and reinstate the Department's license suspension.

Sergeant Gordon LaFrance arrested Wingerter for driving under the influence of alcohol. Wingerter consented to a blood test, and a sample of his blood was drawn by a registered nurse at Medcenter One in Mandan. The sample was submitted to the State Toxicologist's office for analysis, which showed Wingerter's blood-alcohol concentration to be 0.17 percent by weight.

At the administrative license suspension proceeding, Wingerter's counsel called as a witness the analyst from the State Toxicologist's office, who analyzed Wingerter's blood sample. She brought with her the complete toxicology file on Wingerter's blood test, which was introduced into evidence. The file contained four documents: a copy of the analytical report of Wingerter's blood test, two computer-generated forms containing the calculations used to determine Wingerter's blood-alcohol concentration, and the form used to keep track of Wingerter's blood sample and its case number.

The two computer-generated forms, containing the calculations used to determine blood-alcohol concentration, revealed that Wingerter's blood sample had to be tested twice. Because the testing procedure shapes the legal arguments and bears upon our resolution of them, we set forth the details of that procedure.

The analyst testified that when a sample of blood is received from law enforcement, it is assigned a case number. Next, the analyst prepares two case samples from the driver's blood sample, and two control samples from a solution with a known alcohol concentration. She then injects the samples into the gas chromatograph, one at a time, in the following order: a control sample, a case sample, the second case sample, and, finally, the second control sample. The control samples are used to verify the accuracy of the analysis of the case samples.

An integrator, working in conjunction with the gas chromatograph, measures the "peak area" (quantity) of alcohol in each sample. The analyst enters the numbers recorded by the integrator into a computer, which performs the necessary statistical calculations for each sample. The computer calculates the driver's blood alcohol concentration by averaging the results obtained for the two case samples. 1 Next, the analyst compares the measured results of each of the case samples and control samples with the acceptance criteria delineated in the "Approved Method." 2 If those results are within the acceptable range prescribed by the acceptance criteria, the analyst records the driver's calculated blood alcohol concentration, and the date on State Toxicologist form 107, titled "Analytical Report," and signs it. The "Approved Method" does not require completion of an analytical report for a result that does not meet its acceptance criteria. Instead, it instructs the analyst to repeat the analysis. An analytical report, completed by a certified analyst of the State Toxicologist and certified by the State Toxicologist, shows the result of the calculations performed by the analyst and is recognized "as prima facie evidence of the results of a chemical analysis." NDCC Sec. 39-20-07(8).

The analyst testified that during the first attempted analysis of Wingerter's case samples, the "control went out of range," due to human error, and under the "Approved Method," she was required to repeat the analysis. The error, in essence, invalidated the result of the first analysis under the "Approved Method" and made it scientifically inaccurate.

The control was within the acceptable range in the second analysis and this result was used to complete Wingerter's analytical report, which was forwarded to the Department. The hearing officer suspended Wingerter's driver's license, finding that the test was fairly administered and Wingerter's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.17 percent by weight. Wingerter appealed to the district court, arguing that the Department lacked jurisdiction under NDCC Sec. 39-20-03.1(3), because Officer LaFrance failed to forward to the Department the records from both the first and second analyses of the blood sample. The district court agreed, citing our decision in Bosch v. Moore, 517 N.W.2d 412 (N.D.1994), and reversed.

The Department appealed, arguing that NDCC Sec. 39-20-03.1(3) requires only a copy of the certified copy of the analytical report of a blood test be forwarded to it and not copies of all records of the analysis of the blood. Wingerter counters that all records for all tests administered at the officer's direction must be forwarded. Because the analyst did not forward the records from both the first and second analyses of his blood sample, Wingerter contends the Department lacked jurisdiction to suspend his driver's license.

Our review of an appeal from an administrative license suspension is governed by the Administrative Agencies Practice Act, NDCC ch. 28-32, and is limited to the record of the agency. Olson v. N.D. Dept. of Transp. Dir., 523 N.W.2d 258 (N.D.1994). The interpretation and application of a statute is a question of law, which we review de novo. Id. We will affirm the agency action, if it is in accordance with the law. NDCC Sec. 28-32-19(1).

Section 39-20-03.1(3) says, in part:

"[T]he law enforcement officer ... shall forward to the director ... a certified copy of the operational checklist and test records of a breath test and a copy of the certified copy of the analytical report for a blood, saliva, or urine test for all tests administered at the direction of the officer."

We have said that NDCC Sec. 39-20-03.1(3) "establishes the prerequisite for the exercise of DOT's jurisdiction." Bosch, 517 N.W.2d at 413. In order to obtain jurisdiction to suspend a person's driving privileges, the Department must comply with the basic mandatory provisions of that statute. Id.

Section 39-20-03.1(3) plainly and unambiguously requires transmission of only "a copy of the certified copy of the analytical report for a blood, saliva, or urine test." We construe unambiguous statutes according to their plain, ordinary and commonly understood meaning. Olson, 523 N.W.2d at 259. In this case, the officer forwarded a copy of the certified copy of the analytical report to the Department, as called for under the statute.

Wingerter argues that our holding in Bosch that the officer must forward the records for all breath tests conducted at the officer's direction, regardless of their validity, requires the transmission of all records of blood tests. Wingerter's reliance on Bosch is misplaced, however, because that case dealt with Intoxilyzer tests.

Section 39-20-03.1(3) distinguishes between breath tests on the one hand, and blood, saliva, and urine tests on the other. For breath tests, it requires the officer to forward "a certified copy of the operational checklist and test records," but for urine, saliva, and blood tests, it requires only "a copy of the certified copy of the analytical report," filled out by the State Toxicologist. (Emphasis added.)

In Bosch, we read the plain language of the statute ["test records"] to mean that all test records for all breath tests administered by the officer must be forwarded to the Department, leaving the officer who conducted the tests with no discretion...

To continue reading

Request your trial
13 cases
  • Filkowski v. Dir., N.D. Dep't of Transp.
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • April 28, 2015
    ...of DOT's jurisdiction” and “the Department must comply with the basic mandatory provisions of [the] statute.” Wingerter v. N.D. Dep't of Transp., 530 N.W.2d 362, 364 (N.D.1995) (quoting Bosch v. Moore, 517 N.W.2d 412, 413 (N.D.1994) ). When a driver submits to a chemical test and the test s......
  • Mahoney v. Mahoney
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • July 23, 1997
    ...remand a case to give a party an opportunity to redo what could have been done in the first place. E.g., Wingerter v. North Dakota Dept. of Transp., 530 N.W.2d 362, 365 (N.D.1995). The purpose of an appeal is to review the actions of the trial court, not to grant the appellant the opportuni......
  • Hickey v. North Dakota Dept. of Health and Consol. Laboratories
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • August 29, 1995
    ...abuse. Issues not raised before the agency will not be considered for the first time on appeal. E.g., Wingerter v. North Dakota Department of Transportation, 530 N.W.2d 362, 365 (N.D.1995); True v. Heitkamp, 470 N.W.2d 582, 592 (N.D.1991); Choukalos v. North Dakota State Personnel Board, 42......
  • Schaaf v. North Dakota Dept. of Transp.
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • July 21, 2009
    ...not require officer to forward blank test card used in unsuccessful attempt to clear machine after test); Wingerter v. North Dakota Dep't of Transp., 530 N.W.2d 362, 364-65 (N.D. 1995) (N.D.C.C. § 39-20-03.1(3) distinguishes between breath tests, and blood, urine, and saliva tests; for brea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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