Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Texas Department of Public Safety v. Taunton

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

August 15, 2019

TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Appellant
v.
CLAUDIA RENEE TAUNTON, Appellee

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 3 Galveston County, Texas Trial Court Case No. CV-80718

          Panel consists of Justices Lloyd, Landau, and Countiss.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JULIE COUNTISS, JUSTICE

         Appellant, the Texas Department of Public Safety ("DPS"), challenges the trial court's judgment affirming an administrative order denying DPS's petition to suspend the driver's license of appellee, Claudia Renee Taunton. In its sole issue, DPS contends that the trial court erred in affirming the administrative order denying its petition to suspend Taunton's driver's license.

         We affirm.

         Background

         On May 5, 2017, Taunton was arrested for driving while intoxicated. DPS suspended Taunton's driver's license and served her with a Notice of Suspension.[1]Taunton requested an administrative hearing to contest the suspension of her driver's license.[2]

         At the hearing, Texas Highway Patrol Trooper R. Woodard testified that while driving behind Taunton on FM-517 in Galveston County, Texas on May 5, 2017, he saw her drive her car "over onto the shoulder several times." Woodard further testified that there was other traffic on the road at the time and, in his opinion, Taunton's driving her car onto the shoulder on multiple occasions created an unsafe condition on the road. Woodard testified that he could not recall the exact number of times that Taunton drove her car onto the improved shoulder "without reviewing" his video recording of the event, but he recalled that "she didn't just touch the line; she actually drove onto the shoulder" with her car. He further testified that she did not drive her car into oncoming traffic and there were no other cars stopped on the shoulder at the time.

         As a result of the manner of Taunton's driving, Woodard initiated a traffic stop. He noticed that Taunton's eyes were red and glassy. She admitted to "drinking one mixed alcohol drink in Galveston." Woodard performed multiple field-sobriety tests on Taunton, which she failed. She then consented to give two voluntary breath specimens, which both provided results of blood alcohol content above the legal limit.[3]

         After considering the evidence and argument of counsel, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") made findings of fact that Taunton was "stopped for driving [her car] partially onto the improved shoulder of the roadway on several occasions," "there is insufficient evidence to establish that [Taunton's] driving was unsafe or posed a risk to other motorists," there "was insufficient evidence to establish reasonable suspicion to stop or contact" Taunton. As such, the ALJ concluded that "the evidence presented . . . was insufficient to establish all the issues/elements set out in Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 524.035 or 724.042 by a preponderance of the evidence." DPS appealed the ALJ's ruling.[4]

         After reviewing the administrative record and hearing the arguments of counsel, the trial court found that there was "insufficient evidence was established to prove that [Taunton's] driving was unsafe or posed a risk to other motorists." Accordingly, the trial court rendered judgment affirming the administrative order.

         Standard of Review

         Judicial review of administrative license-suspension decisions is governed by a "substantial evidence standard." Mireles v. Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 9 S.W.3d 128, 131 (Tex. 1999). When reviewing an administrative decision under the substantial evidence rule, the reviewing court "may affirm the [administrative] decision in whole or in part." Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 2001.174(1). However, it must reverse or remand the case if the challenger's "substantial rights . . . have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are (A) in violation of a constitutional or statutory provision, (B) in excess of the agency's statutory authority, (C) made through an unlawful procedure, (D) affected by other error of law, (E) not reasonably supported by substantial evidence when considering the reliable and probative evidence in the record as a whole, or (F) arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion. See id. § 2001.174(2); see also Tex. Dep 't of Pub. Safety v. Guajardo, 970 S.W.2d 602, 604-05 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist] 1998, no pet.).

         Whether substantial evidence supports an administrative order is a question of law. Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Alford,209 S.W.3d 101, 103 (Tex. 2006). The dispositive issue for the reviewing court is not whether the administrative order was correct, but "whether the record demonstrates some reasonable basis for the [administrative] action." Mireles, 9 S.W.3d at 131. We must presume that the agency's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Walter,979 S.W.2d 22, 27 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist] 1998, no pet.). Furthermore, the reviewing court must affirm the administrative decision if more than a scintilla of evidence supports it and may affirm "even if the evidence preponderates against it." Mireles, 9 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.