Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Taylor County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. 5899
consists of: Wright, C.J., Willson, J., and Bailey, J.
M. BAILEY JUSTICE
Texas Department of Public Safety appeals from the county
court's judgment restoring Seth Aaron Ardoin's
driving privileges. In its judgment, the county court
reversed an administrative law judge's decision that
authorized the Department to suspend Ardoin's
driver's license based upon his refusal to submit a
breath specimen after he was arrested for driving while
intoxicated. See Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §
724.035 (West 2011). The county court found that the
administrative law judge erroneously determined that
reasonable suspicion supported the initial stop. In its sole
issue, the Department asserts that the county court erred in
holding that there was no reasonable suspicion to stop
Ardoin. We reverse and render.
reviewing an administrative suspension, courts use a
substantial evidence standard of review. Mireles v. Texas
Dep't of Pub. Safety, 9 S.W.3d 128, 131 (Tex. 1999).
A court applying the substantial evidence standard of review
may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency.
Id. The issue for the reviewing court is not whether
the agency's decision was correct, but only whether the
record demonstrates some reasonable basis for the
agency's action. Id. Courts must affirm
administrative findings in contested cases if there is more
than a scintilla of evidence to support them. Id. An
administrative decision may be sustained even if the evidence
preponderates against it. Id.
review the trial court's decision de novo. Tex.
Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Gonzales, 276 S.W.3d 88, 91
(Tex. App.-San Antonio 2008, no pet.). This means that we
independently assess the administrative law judge's
decision under the substantial evidence standard of review.
Id. Whether substantial evidence exists to support
an administrative law judge's order is a question of law.
Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Alford, 209 S.W.3d
101, 103 (Tex. 2006). The true test is not whether the agency
reached the correct conclusion, but whether some reasonable
basis exists in the record for the action taken by the
agency. See Tex. Health Facilities Comm'n v. Charter
Med.-Dallas, Inc., 665 S.W.2d 446, 452 (Tex. 1984). The
reviewing court is not bound by the reasons given by an
agency in its order, provided there is a valid basis in the
record supporting the agency's action. See id.
administrative license-suspension hearing, the Department
bears the burden of proving several elements, the first of
which is that "reasonable suspicion or probable cause
existed to stop or arrest the person." Transp. §
724.042(1). The only contested element in this case is
whether the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to
stop Ardoin. The administrative law judge made the following
finding on this element:
OF FACT NO. 1
On June 13, 2014, reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant or
probable cause to arrest Defendant existed. Abilene, Texas
Police Officer Andrew Mason observed the Defendant operating
a black Ford pickup truck on S. Clack Street, a public
roadway, in Abilene, Taylor County, Texas. Officer Mason
observed Defendant striking the curb on two occasions.
we must determine whether substantial evidence supports the
administrative law judge's finding that reasonable
suspicion existed for Officer Mason to stop Ardoin. In that
respect, we stand in the same position as the county court,
and we review the administrative law judge's order
without deference to the county court's judgment. See
Alford, 209 S.W.3d at 103.
scope of review is confined to the administrative record.
Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Hirschman, 169
S.W.3d 331, 336 (Tex. App.-Waco 2005, pet. denied);
see Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 2001.175(e)
(West 2016). The evidence in this administrative record is
quite brief in that it only consists of three documents
offered by the Department and a recording of the stop offered
by Ardoin. One of the three documents was the "Peace
Officer's Sworn Report" prepared by Officer Mason.
The opening paragraph of his narrative stated as follows:
On 6/13/2014, I was working overtime routine patrol for F
Company in District 5. At approximately 0029 hours I was
driving behind a black 2000 Ford F-150 (TX LP . . .) in the
5500 block of S. Clack Street. I observed the vehicle strike
the West curb in the 5500 block of S. Clack Street. I
continued to follow the vehicle and observed the vehicle
strike the West curb again in the 6300 block of S. Clack
Street. I continued to follow the vehicle, who turned West on
Antilley Road. I then activated my emergency lights due to
the vehicle striking the West curb twice. I was also
suspicious that the driver was intoxicated.
paragraph of Officer Mason's narrative is the only
portion of his report addressing his basis for stopping
recording of the stop depicts Ardoin's vehicle from the
rear as recorded from the dash of Officer Mason's patrol
unit as it followed Ardoin. Officer Mason followed Ardoin for
approximately one minute before activating the overhead
lights on his patrol unit to pull Ardoin over. The parties
dispute whether the recording depicts Ardoin striking the
curb twice. As noted previously, the administrative law judge
found that "Officer Mason observed Defendant striking
the curb ...