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Hurley v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

May 31, 2017

Keyaunna Hurley, Appellant (Defendant below),
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49G12-1510-CM-37573 The Honorable David J. Certo, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A05-1601-CR-108

          Attorneys for Appellant Robert D. King, Jr. David R. Thompson The Law Office of Robert D. King, Jr., P.C. Indianapolis, IN

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Jesse R. Drum Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, IN

          Slaughter, Justice.

         A state-police trooper stopped Defendant for a traffic violation. During the stop, the trooper suspected Defendant was intoxicated, so he conducted several field sobriety tests, which Defendant failed. At the trooper's request, Defendant agreed to take a chemical breath test at a nearby police station. During the first test, Defendant did not blow hard enough, prompting the machine to print an "insufficient sample" warning. The trooper concluded Defendant had refused to take the test, resulting in the suspension of her driving privileges. On judicial review, Defendant challenged the conclusion that she refused the test, claiming the trooper did not follow the required procedures when administering it. She alleges these procedures, promulgated by the Indiana State Department of Toxicology, required the trooper to offer her a second test. Concluding the procedures required a second test on this record, we grant transfer and reverse.

         Factual and Procedural History

         In October 2015, Indiana State Police Trooper Joshua Graves stopped Keyaunna Hurley in Indianapolis for a traffic violation. Suspecting Hurley was intoxicated, Trooper Graves conducted several field sobriety tests, which she failed. The trooper then asked Hurley to submit to a chemical breath test at a nearby police station, and she agreed.

         A chemical breath test requires the subject to blow one to three times into the Intox EC/IR®II. This device, which contains an "electrochemical sensor (EC)" and employs "infrared sensor (IR) technology", measures a person's blood-alcohol content. Before he administers a test, the trooper generally explains to his subjects they must blow as hard as they can, for as long as they can, to ensure an accurate test result; otherwise, they will be charged with a refusal. The trooper also generally demonstrates the volume of air a subject needs to expel to register a successful reading on the machine, although the record is unclear whether he did so with Hurley. Hurley blew three times but, in the trooper's words, she "did not blow a substantial [enough] amount to get a sufficient sample."

         The trooper agreed Hurley was "completely cooperative throughout this process", but he chose not to allow her a second chemical breath test, which would have allowed her up to three more blows. Instead, he signed the machine's printed ticket, which recorded Hurley's insufficient sample, and advised he would charge her with a refusal to submit to the test. The trooper believed this action was justified because when considering whether to administer a second test, "[i]t's officer discretion on whether you believe that the subject is unable to produce a sufficient sample, or if the subject is refusing to produce a sufficient sample." The bureau of motor vehicles suspended Hurley's driver's license for one year because of her refusal to submit to a breath test.

         Hurley objected to the refusal, arguing, first, she could not have refused the breath test because the trooper failed to follow the regulations for administering the test and, second, there was insufficient evidence to support the trooper's conclusion she had refused it. After a hearing, the trial court upheld the trooper's decision, and a unanimous Court of Appeals affirmed, Hurley v. State, 56 N.E.3d 127 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). We grant transfer, thus vacating the Court of Appeals decision, and reverse.

         Standard of Review

         A trial-court order disposing of a petition challenging a motorist's suspension of driving privileges is a final judgment. Burnell v. State¸ 56 N.E.3d 1146, 1149 (Ind. 2016) (citing Ind. Code § 9-30-6-10(g)). Hurley, as the party seeking judicial review, bore the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. I.C. § 9-30-6-10(f) (2010 Repl.). Because the trial court entered judgment against Hurley, she appeals from a negative judgment. Burnell, 56 N.E.3d at 1149-50. We will reverse a negative judgment only if it is contrary to law-meaning "the evidence leads to but one conclusion and the trial court reached an opposite conclusion." Id. at 1150. We consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party and do not reweigh the evidence or judge witness credibility. Id. A party appealing from a negative judgment "has a heavy burden to establish … there was no basis in fact for the judgment rendered." Id. (citation omitted). At issue here is the meaning of a regulatory provision, Title ...

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