Timely Filing of Breathalyzer's Maintenance Report Is Irrelevant
Sept. 14, 2019
On September 11, 2018, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, handed down its ruling in Hearne v. Director of Revenue, an appeal filed by the Director of Revenue (DOR) arising out of the Circuit Court of St. Louis County after the Trial Court affirmed the DWI Commissioner's decision to set aside Hearne's driver's license suspension.
In the underlying matter, the DWI Commissioner ruled in favor of Hearne in a Trial De Novo. During the hearing, Hearne objected to the admission of BAC evidence from the alcohol breath analyzer used by the arresting agency; an Intox DMT in this case. Hearne's sole basis for objection rested upon the failure of the arresting police department to timely file a copy of the Maintenance Report with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) within the 15 day period as prescribed by the Mo. Code Regs. Title 19, § 25-30.031(3). The DOR moved for a rehearing of this decision to the Trial Court. The Trial Court denied the DOR's motion and affirmed the Commissioner's judgment.
The Appeals Court found in favor of the DOR and reversed and remanded the Trial Court's decision, further ordering for the reinstatement of the Director's suspension of Hearne's driving privileges. The Appeals Court found that the Trial Court erroneously applied the law by excluding the BAC test results on the basis of the police officer's failure to timely file a copy of the Maintenance Report with DHSS. In so doing, it relied upon Turcotte v. Dir. of Revenue, 829 S.W.2d 494 (Mo. App. E.D. 1992), in which it was held that “noncompliance with [the reporting requirements found in] § 25-30.031(3) does not necessarily render the BAC results inadmissible.”
The Court in Turcotte further “emphasized that the driver's interest properly focuses on the accuracy of the BAC test result [and not on when the report was filed with DHSS], and that interest is adequately protected by the regulations mandating that the breath analyzer machines be approved and tested regularly.” Id. at 496. The driver's interest is simply unaffected by whether or not a police officer timely filed the Maintenance Report with DHSS, so long as the breath analyzer was approved and timely maintained at the time of the arrest.
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