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Texas Department of Public Safety v. Pena

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

June 15, 2017

TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Appellant,
v.
JASON DANIEL PENA, Appellee.

         On appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 of Nueces County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Longoria and Hinojosa.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROGELIO VALDEZ Chief Justice.

         An administrative law judge (ALJ) entered an order suspending appellee Jason Daniel Pena's driver's license following his arrest for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Pena appealed the decision to the county court, which reversed the ALJ's suspension order. We reverse and render judgment reinstating the ALJ's suspension order.

         I. Background

         On March 21, 2014, Officer Alan McCollom of the Corpus Christi Police Department arrested Pena for DWI outside a bar. Officer McCollom asked Pena to provide a breath specimen, and Pena refused. Thereafter, the Department sought suspension of Pena's driver's license based on his refusal to provide a breath specimen pursuant to section 724.035 of the Texas Transportation Code. See Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 724.035(a) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.) (authorizing license suspension for a person who refuses to provide a breath specimen after being arrested for DWI).

         A. Administrative Suspension Hearing

         An ALJ convened an administrative hearing, at which the Department shouldered the burden to prove the following elements in order to suspend Pena's driver's license:

1. [R]easonable suspicion . . . existed to stop . . . [Pena];
2. [P]robable cause existed to believe that [Pena] was . . . operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated;
3. [Pena] was placed under arrest by the officer and was requested to submit to the taking of a specimen; and
4. [Pena] refused to submit to the taking of a specimen on request of the officer.

         Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 724.042(1)-(4) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.).

         The disputed issues at the hearing centered on the first two elements-i.e., whether there was reasonable suspicion to stop and probable cause to arrest Pena for DWI. To satisfy these elements, the Department offered Officer McCollom's written report of the arrest into evidence without objection. Officer McCollom's report contained the following relevant facts regarding the events leading up to Pena's arrest:

• Stacy Jorgensen, an off-duty peace officer employed by a school district, called dispatch to report that he had followed "a possible intoxicated driver" to a bar after he observed the driver swerve out of his lane across multiple lanes, clip the ...

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