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Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles v. Gurtner

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 26, 2015

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Appellant-Respondent,
v.
Jennifer M. Gurtner, Appellee-Petitioner

Page 307

Appeal from the Marshall Superior Court. The Honorable Dean A. Colvin, Judge. Cause No. 50D02-1406-MI-26.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Kathy Bradley, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: James N. Clevenger, Wyland, Humphrey & Clevenger, LLP, Plymouth, Indiana.

Mathias, Judge. Najam, J., and Bradford, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 308

Mathias, Judge.

[¶ 1] The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (" BMV" ) appeals the order of the Marshall Superior Court granting a petition for judicial review filed by Jennifer M. Gurtner (" Gurtner" ) after her license was suspended for failure to provide proof of financial responsibility following an automobile accident. On appeal, the BMV claims that the trial court was without authority to grant the petition because the controlling statute provides the trial court with no discretion to overturn the suspension. Concluding that Gurtner did not adequately avail herself of the available statutory remedies, we reverse.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶ 2] The parties do not dispute the relevant facts of this case. On April 24, 2014, Gurtner was driving a vehicle owned by her and her husband when she struck a deer. Gurtner's car was damaged, and she reported the incident to the police. Following the accident, the BMV notified her that she was required to provide proof of financial responsibility, i.e., automobile insurance, at the time of the accident. Gurtner and her husband thought they had paid for automobile insurance on all of their vehicles, but because of a mistake on the part of Gurtner's insurance agent, the

Page 309

vehicle involved in the collision with the deer had been dropped from their insurance coverage. Gurtner was therefore unable to provide the BMV with proof of her financial responsibility. The BMV then notified Gurtner that her license would be suspended, pursuant to Indiana Code section 9-25-6-3, for ninety days effective June 10, 2104.

[¶ 3] On June 12, 2014, Gurtner filed a verified petition for judicial review, seeking to challenge the BMV's suspension of her license. The trial court held a hearing on the matter on June 30, 2014, and orally granted Gurtner's petition at the conclusion of the hearing. The trial court entered a written order granting Gurtner's petition on July 2, 2014, which provides in relevant part:

2. The allegations in [Gurtner's] Petition for Judicial Review concerning the suspension of her driving privileges are true.
3. [Gurtner and her husband] have secured and paid for automobile liability insurance on all other parties' motor vehicles and had coverage on motor vehicles on April 24, 2014.
4. Through no fault of Jennifer Gurtner, she was not able to furnish the BMV [with proof of] financial responsibility.
5. The [BMV] does not permit drivers an administrative hearing to dispute and/or explain the driver's problems for complying with proof of financial responsibility.
THEREFORE, it is ordered that the [BMV] dismiss, withdraw, rescind, or revoke any administrative driver's license suspension of Jennifer M. Gurtner and that her full driving privileges be immediately reinstated and restored to her upon her payment of a reinstatement fee to the [BMV].

Appellant's App. p. 10. The BMV now appeals.

Standard of Review

[¶ 4] The State claims that we should review the trial court's order and that the trial court should have reviewed the BMV's order under the Administrative Orders and Procedures Act (" AOPA" ), Indiana Code article 4-21.5.[1] This is incorrect. Review of the suspension of a driver's license for failure to provide proof of financial responsibility is governed by Indiana Code section 9-25-6-16(d). This section provides that " [a]n action taken or a determination made by the [BMV] under this section is not subject to IC 4-21.5 [ i.e., AOPA]. However, the person may file a petition for judicial review under this chapter." Id. Thus, judicial review of the suspension of driving privileges is specifically excluded from the purview of the AOPA. Yet, the remaining sections of Indiana Code chapter 9-25-6 contain no other provisions explaining the scope of the judicial review called for in section 16.

[¶ 5] Whatever can be said about the petition for judicial review called for in Indiana Code section ...


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