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Kyle S. Ouradnik v. Ronald Henke, Director, Department of Transportation
Case Number: 2020 ND 39
Judge: Jon J. Jensen
Court: IN THE SUPREME COURT
STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA
Plaintiff's Attorney: The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) appeals
from a district court judgment reversing an administrative hearing officer’s
decision to revoke Ouradnik’s driving privileges for a period of 91 days.
Defendant's Attorney: Douglas B. Anderson
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On April 5, 2019, Ouradnik was arrested for driving under the influence.
The arresting officer read an incomplete version of the implied consent
warning required by N.D.C.C. § 39-20-01(3)(a) to Ouradnik. After being read
the implied consent warning Ouradnik consented to take a breath test.
[¶3] Ouradnik requested an administrative hearing. At the start of the
hearing, the hearing officer admitted into evidence, without objection, the
following exhibits: a List of Certified Chemical Test Operators, a List of
Approved Chemical Test Devices, the Approved Method to Conduct Breath
Test with Intoxilyzer 8000, and a Memo Regarding Designees of the State
Crime Laboratory Director. At the hearing, the arresting officer testified,
without objection, he was certified to administer the breath test completed by
Ouradnik, he had ascertained a 20-minute deprivation period prior to
administering the test, he administered the test in accordance with the
approved method, and he obtained a valid test result.
[¶4] During the hearing, the arresting officer identified a copy of the Report
and Notice Form completed in connection with Ouradnik’s arrest and stated
the document was a true and correct copy of the original. The arresting officer
confirmed the form contained his handwriting, his signature, and the
signature of Ouradnik.
[¶5] The arresting officer then identified a copy of the Intoxilyzer Test Record
and Checklist from the breath test administered to Ouradnik. He testified the
document was a true and correct copy of the original, and confirmed the
document contained his signature.
[¶6] The Report and Notice Form and the Intoxilyzer Test Record and
Checklist were offered as a combined exhibit. Ouradnik objected to the
admission of the exhibit into evidence. Ouradnik argued the documents could
not be authenticated because the signature used for the certification of the
documents belonged to an individual who was on administrative leave at the
time the document was certified. The hearing officer took judicial notice that
the stamped signature belonged to an individual on administrative leave at the
time the exhibit was certified. The exhibit was admitted into evidence.
[¶7] Relying on the Report and Notice Form and the Intoxilyzer Test Record
and Checklist, the hearing officer determined Ouradnik had been operating a
motor vehicle in violation of N.D.C.C. § 39-08-01. The hearing officer
thereafter suspended Ouradnik’s driving privileges for a period of 91 days.
[¶8] Ouradnik appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the district court. In
his specification of errors filed with the court, Ouradnik asserted “the hearing
officer erred by admitting evidence and records without foundation, without
authentication, and purported certified by a DOT Division Director who was
on leave and without authority to certify the records.” The specification of
errors also included general assertions of error during the administrative
[¶9] Subsequent to his appeal to the district court, but while the appeal was
pending, this Court issued its opinion in State v. Vigen, 2019 ND 134, 927
N.W.2d 430. In his brief to the court, citing to our decision in Vigen, Ouradnik
argued his breath test result was inadmissible because the arresting officer
omitted the words “or urine” from the statutory implied consent advisory.
Citing to our decision in Vigen, the court reversed the hearing officer’s decision
after determining the result of the breath test was inadmissible because of the
omission of the words “or urine” from the statutory implied consent warning.
[¶10] The NDDOT argues the district court erred in reversing the
administrative hearing officer’s decision based on our decision in Vigen because
Ouradnik failed to object during the administrative hearing to admission of
the breath test result based on the accuracy of the implied consent warning.
Ouradnik argues he was not required to make the objection during the
administrative hearing because our decision in Vigen was not issued until after
the administrative hearing officer’s decision had been appealed to the court.
Alternatively, Ouradnik argues the Report and Notice Form and the
Intoxilyzer Test Record and Checklist were not properly authenticated and
should not have been admitted as evidence during the administrative hearing.
[¶11] The district court reversed the hearing officer’s decision based on our
decision in State v. Vigen, 2019 ND 134, ¶ 17, 927 N.W.2d 430. In Vigen, we
held exclusion of the test results is the consequence of an officer’s failure to
read the “or urine” portion of the implied advisory in N.D.C.C. §
39- 20- 01(3)(a)(2017). Id. (N.D.C.C. § 39-20-01(3)(a) was amended effective
August 1, 2019, eliminating the reference to “or urine.”) The NDDOT argues
Ouradnik did not object to the admissibility of test result based on the
incomplete implied consent advisory and failed to preserve the issue for review.
[¶12] Rule 103 of the North Dakota Rules of Evidence governs the preservation
of issues on appeal from administrative hearings. May v. Sprynczynatyk, 2005
ND 76, ¶ 24, 695 N.W.2d 196. To preserve a claim of error under Rule 103,
a party must timely object and state the specific ground unless it was
apparent from the context. N.D.R.Ev. 103(a)(1). We will reverse the district
court’s judgment when the basis of the decision was not raised in the
administrative hearing. Jones v. Levi, 2016 ND 245, ¶ 11, 888 N.W.2d 765.
[¶13] In addition to the lack of objection during the administrative hearing,
when a request for judicial review of an administrative decision is made under
N.D.C.C. § 39-20-06, the party seeking a review of the decision must comply
with the specification-of-error requirement of N.D.C.C. § 28-32-42(4). Hamre
v. N.D. Dep’t of Transp., 2014 ND 23, ¶ 8, 842 N.W.2d 865. Both N.D.C.C. §§
39-20-06 and 28-32-42(4) require filing a notice of appeal and specifications of
error in the district court. Rounkles v. Levi, 2015 ND 128, ¶ 10, 863 N.W.2d
910. “[T]he specifications of error must ‘identify what matters are truly at
issue with sufficient specificity to fairly apprise the agency, other parties, and
the court of the particular errors claimed.’” Id. (quoting Hamre, at ¶ 8). “A
party appealing a hearing officer’s decision must file ‘reasonably specific’
specifications of error detailing which matters are at issue, so as to alert the
agency, other parties, and the court of the particular errors claimed.” Midthun
v. N.D. Workforce Safety & Ins., 2009 ND 22, ¶ 7, 761 N.W.2d 572.
[¶14] This Court has previously recognized the limited authority of courts to
review administrative agency decisions:
The right to appeal is governed solely by statute, Interest of K.J.,
2010 ND 46, ¶ 14, 779 N.W.2d 635, and an appellant must meet
the statutory requirements for perfecting an administrative
appeal for a district court to obtain subject matter jurisdiction over
the appeal. Geffre v. North Dakota Dep’t of Health, 2011 ND 45,
¶ 9, 795 N.W.2d 681. We are mindful that an appeal from an
administrative agency to the district court invokes that court’s
appellate jurisdiction, Lewis v. North Dakota Workers Comp.
Bureau, 2000 ND 77, ¶ 8, 609 N.W.2d 445, and that appeals from
an administrative agency involve issues of separation of powers of
the three branches of government. See Power Fuels, Inc. v. Elkin,
283 N.W.2d 214, 220–21 (N.D.1979); N.D. Const. art. XI, § 26.
Meier v. North Dakota Dep’t of Human Servs., 2012 ND 134, ¶ 4,
818 N.W.2d 774.
Jones v. Levi, 2016 ND 245, ¶ 5, 888 N.W.2d 765 (quoting Daniels v. Ziegler,
2013 ND 157, ¶ 6, 835 N.W.2d 852).
[¶15] At the administrative hearing, Ouradnik objected to the admission of the
Report and Notice Form and the Intoxilyzer Test Record and Checklist,
asserting a lack of authentication. He argued that certification by an
individual who had been placed on administrative leave was insufficient to
authenticate the documents. Ouradnik did not object to the officer’s failure to
read the “or urine” portion of the implied advisory. By failing to object to the
completeness of the implied consent advisory, Ouradnik failed to preserve the
issue for review by the district court. Additionally, Ouradnik did not
subsequently identify the incomplete implied consent advisory as an issue in
his specification of errors. Because the basis for the court’s decision was not
raised in the administrative hearing and not included within Ouradnik’s
specification of errors, we reverse the decision of the court.
[¶16] Ouradnik asserts the decision of the administrative hearing officer must
still be reversed, and the decision of the district court affirmed, because the
test result was admitted without proper authentication. He argues the exhibit
containing the test result lacked proper authentication because the
authentication was provided by an NDDOT employee who had been placed on
[¶17] The NDDOT argues Ouradnik is required to assert his challenge to the
authentication of the exhibit containing the test result through a cross-appeal
and his failure to assert the issue through a cross-appeal precludes our review
of the issue. “An appellee is entitled on appeal to attempt to save the judgment
by urging any ground asserted in the trial court.” Kalvoda v. Bismarck Pub.
Sch. Dist. #1, 2011 ND 32, ¶ 14, 794 N.W.2d 454. “A cross-appeal is necessary
only if the appellee seeks a more favorable result on appeal than it received in
the district court.” Id.
[¶18] At the administrative hearing, Ouradnik objected to the admission of the
exhibit containing the test result by arguing the exhibit lacked proper
authentication. The issue was also included within his specification of errors
filed in his appeal to the district court. The court reversed the administrative
decision for a different reason, applying our decision in Vigen. Ouradnik is not
seeking a result more favorable than the result he received in the court, he
properly preserved the issue below, and he is permitted argue the issue on this
[¶19] Ouradnik challenges the admissibility of the exhibit which included
copies of the Report and Notice Form and the Intoxilyzer Test Record and
Checklist, asserting the exhibit lacked proper certification by the Director of
the NDDOT. “This Court reviews administrative agency decisions to suspend
driving privileges under N.D.C.C. ch. 28-32 and accords great deference to the
agency’s decision.” Alvarado v. N.D. Dep’t of Transp., 2019 ND 231, ¶ 6, 932
N.W.2d 911. A hearing officer’s decision to admit or exclude evidence will only
be reversed on appeal if the hearing officer abused his discretion. Ell v. Dir.,
DOT, 2016 ND 164, ¶ 6, 883 N.W.2d 464. An abuse of discretion occurs if a
hearing officer acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or capricious manner or if
the hearing officer misinterprets or misapplies the law. Id. “The admissibility
of evidence at an adjudicative hearing before an administrative agency is
governed by the North Dakota Rules of Evidence.” May v. Sprynczynatyk, 2005
ND 76, ¶ 24, 695 N.W.2d 196.
[¶20] “Before documentary evidence is admissible, it must be authenticated.”
Frost v. N.D. Dep’t of Transp., 487 N.W.2d 6, 8 (N.D. 1992). The Century Code
provisions governing the administrative hearing in this case provide a
statutory method for authentication of certain records of the NDDOT,
including the Report and Notice Form and the Intoxilyzer Test Record and
Checklist. N.D.C.C. § 39-20-05(4)(a). A director-certified copy of the Report
and Notice Form and the Intoxilyzer Test Record and Checklist are admissible
as regularly kept records of the director and are self-authenticating under
N.D.C.C. § 39-20-05(4)(a). Rudolph v. N.D. Dep’t of Transp., 539 N.W.2d 63,
66 (ND 1995); Maher v. N.D. Dep’t of Transp., 539 N.W.2d 300, 303 (ND 1995).
[¶21] The parties agree the Report and Notice Form and the Intoxilyzer Test
Record and Checklist offered as exhibit one were certified using the signature
of an employee of the NDDOT who was on administrative leave at the time of
certification. Ouradnik argues an employee who has been placed on
administrative leave lacks authority to certify records and, absent proper
certification, the records are not admissible. In this case, it is unnecessary to
determine whether an employee on administrative leave lacks authority to
certify documents of the NDDOT because proper authenticity and foundation
for admission of the documents were provided by the arresting officer.
[¶22] When records of the NDDOT are not director-certified, the NDDOT must
establish their authenticity with extrinsic evidence under Rule 901, N.D.R.Ev.
Peterson v. N.D. Dep’t of Transp., 518 N.W.2d 690, 695 (N.D. 1994).
Authentication is simply identification and can be accomplished through
testimony of a witness with knowledge that an item is what it is claimed to be.
N.D.R.Ev. 901(a),(b)(1); Frost, 487 N.W.2d 6, 8 (N.D. 1992).
[¶23] Exhibit one included a copy of the Report and Notice Form.
The arresting officer identified the copy of the Report and Notice Form as a
correct copy of the original form completed in connection with Ouradnik’s
arrest. The arresting officer confirmed the form contained his handwriting,
his signature, and the signature of Ouradnik. Sufficient foundation and
authentication were provided to admit the Report and Notice Form into
[¶24] The combined exhibit also included a copy of the Intoxilyzer Test Record
and Checklist which provides the result of the breath test Ouradnik
performed subsequent to his arrest. Section 39-20-07, N.D.C.C., addresses the
admissibility of Intoxilyzer Test Results in administrative proceedings. The
results of the chemical analysis must be received in evidence when it is shown
that the sample was properly obtained and the test was fairly administered,
and if the test is shown to have been performed according to methods and with
approved devices and performed by a certified individual. N.D.C.C. § 39-20-
07(5); Ebach v. N.D. Dep’t of Transp., 2019 ND 80, ¶ 11, 924 N.W.2d 105. The
results are admissible without further foundation by the admission of a
certified copy of the checklist along with the documents described in N.D.C.C.
§ 39-20-07(6). Id. (citing Salter v. Hjelle, 415 N.W.2d 801, 804 (N.D. 1987)).
[¶25] At the start of the hearing, all of the documents described in N.D.C.C. §
39-20-07(6) were admitted into evidence without objection. Subsequent to the
admission of the other documents, the arresting officer identified a copy of the
Intoxilyzer Test Record and Checklist from the breath test administered to
Ouradnik. He testified the document was a true and correct copy of the
original, confirmed the document contained his signature, and confirmed the
document contained his certification that he had followed the approved method
for conducting the test. The arresting officer’s testimony provided sufficient
foundation and authentication to admit the Intoxilyzer Test Record and
Checklist without the necessity of certification by the NDDOT.
[¶26] Ouradnik requests that this Court grant him attorney fees under
N.D.C.C. § 28-32-50(1) which generally “requires a court to award reasonable
attorney fees and costs to a ‘prevailing’ claimant when an administrative
agency has acted without ‘substantial justification.’” French v. Director, 2019
ND 172, ¶ 19, 930 N.W.2d 84 (citing Drayton v. Workforce Safety & Ins., 2008
ND 178, ¶ 38, 756 N.W.2d 320). Because we conclude the hearing officer did
not abuse its discretion in admitting the Report and Notice Form and the
Intoxilyzer Test Record and Checklist, we conclude the NDDOT had
substantial justification for purposes of N.D.C.C. § 28-32-50. The request for
attorney fees for the appeal to this Court is denied.
Outcome: The district court erred by reversing the administrative hearing officer’s decision based on an issue that was not preserved for review. We reverse the district court and reinstate theadministrative hearing officer’s decision