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Barry L. Jacobs v. State of Louisiana, Department of Public Safety, License Control and Driver Improvement Division
Case Number: 53,208-CA
Judge: Frances Pitman
Court: COURT OF APPEAL SECOND CIRCUIT STATE OF LOUISIANA
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On September 13, 2017, Jacobs filed a petition for judicial review.
He stated that on the evening of March 10, 2017, he was driving on
Highway 165 in Monroe and was pulled over by a Ouachita Parish Sheriffís
Deputy. After a field sobriety test, he was transported to the Ouachita
Correctional Center (ďOCCĒ) to take a chemical alcohol test. He attempted
to provide two breath samples, but was unable to provide a satisfactory one.
He was charged with DWI first offense, which was amended to reckless
operation. He pled guilty to the amended charge, an associated speeding
violation was dismissed and he was sentenced to a fine of $750 and costs.
Pursuant to La. R.S. 32:666, his commercial driverís license was suspended
for refusing to submit to a chemical alcohol test. He requested an
administrative hearing, and the Department issued a ruling affirming the
suspension of his license. He sought a review of this administrative
suspension of his license and requested that the suspension be denied and
that he be awarded all driving privileges.
On October 12, 2017, the Department filed an answer denying the
A trial was held on May 14, 2019. The Department called Lt. Paul
Knight of the Ouachita Parish Sheriffís Office as a witness. Lt. Knight
testified that he was on duty on March 10, 2017; at 10:34 p.m., he stopped
Jacobsís vehicle for traveling at a speed of 66 miles per hour in a 50 m.p.h.
speed zone. While speaking to Jacobs, he noticed a smell of alcohol on his
breath and asked him to step out of his vehicle. Jacobs stated that he drank
alcohol with his dinner that night. Lt. Knight noticed that Jacobs was unsure
of his balance and swayed a bit, so he administered a field sobriety test. At
10:47 p.m., he advised Jacobs that he was under arrest and seized his
commercial driverís license. He then transported Jacobs to OCC and took
him to the DWI interview room. He testified that he advised Jacobs of his
rights regarding the chemical test for intoxication, and Jacobs refused to sign
the rights form. He left the room for 21 minutes; and, when he returned, he
offered Jacobs a chemical breath test to be conducted on the Intoxilyzer
9000 (the ďIntoxilyzerĒ).1 He recalled that Jacobs hesitated at first, but then
began the test by blowing into the tube of the Intoxilyzer. He explained that
the Intoxilyzer displays a personís blood alcohol content as the person blows
into the tube. He stated that when Jacobs saw his blood alcohol content
increasing on the display as he blew into the tube, he stopped blowing and
then would start blowing again once the number decreased. He stated that
Jacobs did not provide a proper sample during the initial test, so it was
registered as a refusal to submit to the test. At Jacobsís request, he
attempted a second test, but he again stopped blowing into the Intoxilyzer
when the number increased. Jacobs did not provide a proper sample during
the second test, so it was also registered as a refusal to submit to the test. He
1 Lt. Knight identified a certification card for the Intoxilyzer, which showed that it was certified as of January 11, 2016. He explained that the certification expires after two years, so the March 10, 2017 arrest date was within those two years.
then booked Jacobs into jail for DWI based on the refusal to submit to the
chemical breath test.
On cross-examination, Lt. Knight testified that Jacobs was very
cooperative during the traffic stop and field sobriety test. He did not
preserve or retrieve any recording of Jacobs performing the chemical breath
test. He agreed that although Jacobsís test results were registered as a
refusal due to insufficient samples, he did blow into the Intoxilyzer. He
opined that Jacobs was trying to beat the Intoxilyzer by watching the display
of his blood alcohol content and ceasing to blow into the tube before his
blood alcohol content was displayed at .08. He stated that he did have the
option to administer a blood or urine test, but did not offer these options to
Jacobs. He also explained that the rights form is on the online LADRIVE
system, and he prints off the form from the system and has the person sign
the rights form after he reads it. The person can either electronically sign the
form or he can note on the form that the person refused to sign.
Jacobs testified on his own behalf. He stated that he is required to
have a commercial driverís license for his job and that he had been able to
keep his license pending the courtís decision. He recalled that on March 10,
2017, he and his girlfriend were driving home from a restaurant when the
traffic stop occurred. He told Lt. Knight that he had drinks at the restaurant
and then cooperated with a field sobriety test. He stated that at the OCC he
did the chemical breath test twice and that during the first test, the
Intoxilyzer beeped around .07. He contended that he passed the test, but that
Lt. Knight still thought he was intoxicated, so he did the test again with the
same result. He stated that he asked Lt. Knight if he could do the test a third
time because his livelihood depended on him having a commercial driverís
license, but Lt. Knight refused. He testified that he did not see the display of
his blood alcohol content on the Intoxilyzer while he was performing the
test. He demonstrated how he blew into the Intoxilyzer and noted that he
had had breathing problems, including bronchitis, since he was a child. He
further testified that he did not refuse the chemical breath test and did not
purposefully give an insufficient sample. He did not sign the rights form
presented to him by Lt. Knight because he was offended that after he had
been cooperative, Lt. Knight still arrested him for DWI. Reviewing an
exhibit of the tests, Jacobs agreed that his first test began at 11:17 p.m. and
ended at 11:21 p.m., that the second test began at 11:27 p.m. and ended at
11:31 p.m. and that he refused to sign the rights form at 12:02:41 a.m. On
cross-examination, he testified that he did not remember Lt. Knight reading
him the rights form.
Counsel for both parties then provided arguments. The trial court
raised questions about the timeline of events, specifically about when
Lt. Knight read Jacobs the rights form. It noted that while it did not matter
when Jacobs signed the form, it did matter that Lt. Knight read the rights to
Jacobs prior to administering the chemical breath test. It pointed out that the
exhibits showed that Lt. Knight read the rights form at 10:50 p.m. and that
the first chemical breath test began at 11:17 p.m. After taking a recess to
review Lt. Knightís testimony, it noted that Lt. Knight was emphatic that he
advised Jacobs of his rights related to the chemical test for intoxication
before the test was administered.
The trial court found by a preponderance of the evidence that all of
the requirements had been met to support the revocation of Jacobsís
commercial driverís license. It stated that Jacobs voluntarily submitted to the
chemical breath test, but that he stopped blowing into the Intoxilyzer based
on the display of his blood alcohol content. It was not convinced that Jacobs
had any type of infirmity on that night that would have prevented him from
blowing into the Intoxilyzer and successfully completing the test.
On May 24, 2019, the trial court filed a judgment affirming the
suspension and disqualification of Jacobsís commercial driving privileges.
In his first assignment of error, Jacobs argues that the trial court
committed manifest error when it concluded that the rights form required by
La. R.S. 32:661(C) was read to him three minutes after his arrest and before
the chemical breath test was administered. He notes that La. R.S. 32:661(C)
requires that an officer advise the person of his rights regarding the test
before the test is administered, but that the evidence establishes that
Lt. Knight read the rights form to Jacobs after the chemical breath test. He
explains that (1) the time-stamped, documentary evidence shows that the
rights form was read 45 minutes after the test was administered; (2) it is
physically impossible for the rights form to have been read to him at the
OCC just three minutes after he was taken into custody on the shoulder of
the highway; (3) he unequivocally testified that the rights form was not
provided before the test; (4) the arresting deputy admittedly had very limited
memory of the arrest; and (5) the arresting deputy was unfamiliar and
admittedly violated DWI testing protocols. Jacobs argues that Lt. Knight
testified that the rights form is signed or refused at the time it is read. Thus,
the time stamp, showing when the form was signed or refused, documents
the time the form was read.
The Department argues that the trial court did not err when it
determined that Lt. Knight read Jacobs the rights form prior to the
administration of the chemical breath test. It contends that Jacobsís
argument incorrectly equates the reading of the form with the signing of the
form. It emphasizes that La. R.S. 32:661(C) only requires that law
enforcement read the rights form prior to the administration of the test; it
does not require that the arrestee sign the form prior to the administration of
La. R.S. 32:661(C) states:
(1) When a law enforcement officer requests that a person submit to a chemical test as provided for above, he shall first read to the person a standardized form approved by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The department is authorized to use such language in the form as it, in its sole discretion, deems proper, provided that the form does inform the person of the following: (a) His constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona. (b) That his driving privileges can be suspended for refusing to submit to the chemical test. (c) That his driving privileges can be suspended if he submits to the chemical test and such test results show a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or above or, if he is under the age of twenty-one years, a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent or above. (d) That his driving privileges can be suspended if he submits to the chemical test and the test results show a positive reading indicating the presence of any controlled dangerous substance listed in R.S. 40:964. (e) The name and employing agency of all law enforcement officers involved in the stop, detention, investigation, or arrest of the person. (f) That refusal to submit to a chemical test after an arrest for an offense of driving while intoxicated if he has refused to submit to such test on two previous and separate occasions of any previous such violation is a crime under the provisions of R.S. 14:98.2 and the penalties for such crime are the same as the penalties for first conviction of driving while intoxicated. (2) In addition, the arresting officer shall, after reading said form, request the arrested person to sign the form. If the person is unable or unwilling to sign, the officer shall certify that the
arrestee was advised of the information contained in the form and that the person was unable to sign or refused to sign.
On review of the administrative suspension of a driverís license, the
district court is required to conduct a trial de novo to determine the propriety
of the suspension. State Depít of Pub. Safety & Corr. In Matter of Litton,
51,757 (La. App. 2 Cir. 11/15/17), 245 So. 3d 1075. Such a trial is a civil
action amenable to all of the ordinary rules of procedure and proof. Id.
Further, the fact that this is an action for judicial review of a
decision resulting from an administrative hearing does not change the
burden of proof placed by law on the plaintiff. Id.
A court of appeal may not set aside a trial courtís finding of fact in the
absence of manifest error or unless it is clearly wrong. Rosell v. ESCO,
549 So. 2d 840 (La. 1989). The appellate review of fact is not completed by
reading only so much of the record as will reveal a reasonable factual basis
for the finding in the trial court. Id. If the trial courtís findings are
reasonable in light of the record reviewed in its entirety, the court of appeal
may not reverse even though convinced that had it been sitting as the trier of
fact, it would have weighed the evidence differently. Id.
This is a factual dispute regarding when Lt. Knight read the rights
form to Jacobs. Although the trial court determined that Lt. Knight read
Jacobs the rights form before he submitted to the chemical breath tests, the
trial courtís finding is clearly wrong and is not reasonable in light of the
record in its entirety.
The record does not indicate that Lt. Knight sufficiently complied
with La. R.S. 32:661(C). According to the stateís case, Lt. Knight read the
rights form to Jacobs at 10:50 p.m., approximately three minutes after
Jacobs was taken into custody; Lt. Knight left Jacobs in the DWI interview
room for 21 minutes; Lt. Knight administered Jacobsís first chemical breath
test at 11:17 p.m.; Lt. Knight administered Jacobsís second chemical breath
test at 11:27 p.m.; and Jacobs refused to sign the rights form at 12:02 a.m.
This timeline presents the physical and logical impossibility that Lt. Knight
was able to transport Jacobs to OCC and read him his rights within three
minutes of arresting him. There is also not sufficient time in this timeline
for Lt. Knight to observe Jacobs for 15 minutes prior to administering the
first test to ensure that he did not ingest alcohol, regurgitate, vomit or take
anything by mouth. La. R.S. 32:663; La. Admin. Code tit. 55, pt. I, ß 514.
We note that times of the chemical breath tests were time stamped by the
Intoxilyzer but Lt. Knight manually entered the time that he allegedly read
the rights form to Jacobs.
Lt. Knightís testimony is contradictory and is contrary to the
documentary evidence. He stated that his practice was to read the rights
form to the person, print the form from the LADRIVE system and then have
the person sign the form. Although Lt. Knight testified that he read the
rights form before administering the test, the testing equipment recorded that
the rights form was signed, or there was a refusal to sign, after the test was
Accordingly, this assignment of error has merit. Considering this
determination, we need not discuss Jacobsís remaining assignment of error.
Outcome: For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court,
render judgment in favor of Plaintiff-Appellant Barry L. Jacobs and reinstate
his commercial driverís license.