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Constans v. Commissioner of Public Safety

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 19, 2013

Gary L. Constans, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
Commissioner of Public Safety, Respondent.

McLeod County District Court File No. 43-CV-12-1578

Daniel B. Honsey, Elizabeth M. Randa, Kraft Walser Law Office, PLLP, Hutchinson, Minnesota (for appellant)

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Kristi Nielsen, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Chutich, Judge; and Toussaint, Judge. [*]

SYLLABUS

Minnesota Statutes section 171.04, subdivision 1(10) (2012), does not require evidence of impaired driving before a license can be denied and canceled under Minnesota Statutes section 171.14(a)(4) (2012), and instead provides the commissioner of the department of public safety discretion to determine driving conduct that is "inimical to public safety or welfare."

The commissioner of the department of public safety may rely on evidence outside of a driver's record to support a finding of "good cause to believe" that driving conduct is inimical to public safety or welfare under Minnesota Statutes section 171.04, subdivision 1(10).

OPINION

CHUTICH, Judge

This appeal arises out of the department of public safety's cancellation and denial of the driver's license of appellant Gary Constans under Minnesota Statutes sections 171.14(a)(4), and 171.04, subdivision 1(10). After respondent commissioner of public safety (commissioner) found Constans's driving conduct to be inimical to public safety and canceled his license, Constans petitioned the district court for reinstatement. The district court denied the petition, ruling that the commissioner's decision to cancel was within her jurisdiction and was not arbitrary or capricious. Because we agree that Constans did not meet his burden of showing that he is entitled to reinstatement of his driver's license, we affirm the district court's decision.

FACTS

Constans is an adult male in his late 50's. At 11:42 p.m. on June 10, 2008, Constans was driving home to Lester Prairie when he was stopped by a Carver County sheriff's deputy on Highway 5 in Victoria for swerving over the center line and crossing the fog line. The officer's record noted that Constans had been stopped four times in the last year for the same driving conduct. As a result of the June stop, the officer asked the department of public safety (department), driver and vehicle services division, to conduct a driver evaluation A-5 interview with Constans. During the interview with a driver-improvement specialist, Constans denied that he was crossing the center and fog line. He also denied that he had four previous encounters with the police for "erratic driving." The driver-improvement specialist noted that Constans had "very good knowledge" of traffic signs and laws and no further action against Constans was taken.

About 12:30 a.m. on May 8, 2011, a Lester Prairie police officer received a call from McLeod County that a Ford pickup truck was seen headed west on Highway 7 just west of Waconia and was "all over the road, " going over the center and fog lines, and traveling at "a very slow speed" in a 55 mile-per-hour zone. The officer saw a pickup matching the description, pulled it over, and identified the driver as Constans. Constans was driving home from his work as a disc jockey. The officer described to Constans why his driving conduct was concerning. Constans denied crossing the center line and explained that he did not travel faster than 48 miles per hour because his truck has high mileage.

The officer told Constans that he would follow him home and continue to observe his driving conduct. Constans then continued west on Highway 7 driving 30–45 miles per hour. The officer again pulled Constans over and explained that he could not drive that slowly because it was unsafe for other motorists and he could potentially cause an accident. The officer drove Constans the rest of the way home and noted that it "didn't seem like [Constans] understood" safe driving conduct.

As a result of the May 8, 2011 stop, Constans was required to participate in a second A-5 interview. The driver-improvement specialist noted that Constans claimed that he drives slowly to save gas and that he planned to continue doing so. The specialist specifically told Constans, and he acknowledged in writing, that if he continued to drive slowly and to impede traffic, his license could be canceled as inimical to public safety. As ...


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