The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that a Commissioner of Motor Vehicles hearing officer did not abuse his discretion in admitting and relying on a flawed police report when deciding to suspend a motorist charged with drunken driving.
The high court’s 6-0 ruling reversed a 2-1 Connecticut Appellate Court decision.
The case is Do v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. At issue is whether it was appropriate to suspend for 90 days the license of Angel Huang Do based on a four-page police report that contained revisions and incorrect information. Do was arrested in April 2014 after a state trooper observed her car swerving on a highway in Bethany. Do, according to police, failed three standardized field sobriety tests and was then placed under arrest for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
One month after that incident, based on the police report and other factors, the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles held a hearing and subsequently suspended Do’s license for three months. Do did not testify or present evidence at the hearing and the hearing officer ultimately relied on information provided by police in suspending Do’s license.
The Connecticut Appellate Court, though, sided with Do when it ruled that conflicting information and errors in the police report had violated principles of fundamental fairness.
There were several discrepancies in the police report. For instance, the arresting trooper wrote that Do was driving a 2007 Audi A4 with Massachusetts plates, when in fact she was driving a 2006 Mercedes-Benz S28 with Connecticut plates. In addition, a supervising officer crossed out the date of the incident and replaced it with one that was one day later. That supervisor also crossed out the name on the report of a person who witnessed Do’s refusal to perform a breath analysis test.
In response to the discrepancies that Do and her attorney pointed out, the police said they were mere “scrivener’s errors.”
In a 22-page ruling for the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Richard Palmer wrote, “The hearing officer properly admitted and relied on the hearsay information, sworn to by [State Trooper Troy] Biggs, that was submitted to the hearing officer by the commissioner. Because that information constituted substantial evidence to support the hearing officer’s finding, there is no need for a remand of the case to the hearing officer, whose decision to reject the plaintiff’s claim must stand.”
Palmer continued: “This court has indicated repeatedly that a license suspension hearing is not a criminal prosecution and that the subject of a hearing is not entitled to all of the procedural protections that would be available in a criminal proceeding.”
Chet Jackson of the New Haven-based Law Office of Kerry M. Gleason represents Do. He did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Assistant Attorney General Drew Graham represented the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton did not respond to a request for comment by press time.