|Opinion:||Currington v. State ex rel. Dept. of Public Safety, 2022 OK CIV APP 1|
|Subject matter:||Administrative Law|
|Date Decided:||November 23, 2021; Mandate Issued: January 5, 2022|
|Trial Court:||District Court of Tulsa County; Judge Miller|
|Route to this Court:||Appeal of trial court’s order setting aside and vacating a suspension of a driver’s license. .|
|Facts:||DPS received a transcript from the City of Tulsa that indicated that Appellee, Currington, had been convicted of three traffic offenses. Those convictions raised Currington’s points on this driving record to the level where the Oklahoma Administrative Code requires DPS to issue an order suspending his privilege to operate a motor vehicle. DPS provided the required written notice to Currington that his driving privileges would be suspended for one month effective in approximately one month. The transcript received by DPS was incorrect; the three offenses that the City of Tulsa reported to DPS as convictions were actually still pending matters and no conviction had occurred. Currington and two different attorneys hired by him attempted in vain to convince DPS to correct his driving record. Just before the suspension took effect, Currington appealed his suspension to the District Court.|
Unbeknownst to Currington and without any notice to the suspended driver, DPS updated their system and removed the suspension from Currington’s record. DPS then, a few weeks later, filed a pleading in the District Court case giving notice that the suspension had been lifted. DPS also moved for the trial court to dismiss the action based on mootness. The trial court denied DPS’s motion to dismiss and the matter proceeded to trial, at the conclusion of which the trial court found that DPS had violated Currington’s due process rights and set aside and vacated the suspension. DPS appealed.
|Standard of Review:||In administrative matters involving driver’s license privileges, the Court will not reverse the findings of the trial court if there is any evidence, or any reasonable inference to be drawn therefrom, which tends to support its findings. However, the question of whether an individual has been denied due process is reviewed de novo.|
|Analysis:||An individual’s claim to a driver’s license is a protectable property interest that may not be terminated without due process. Here, the City of Tulsa transmitted an incorrect abstract to DPS which caused DPS to carry out its duty to notify the driver and then suspend the driver’s license pursuant to a procedure in the Oklahoma Administrative Code (OAC). Currington was given the ability to dispute the traffic tickets in the municipal court prior to any conviction and, in addition, he was given the ability to appeal the driver’s license suspension to the trial court. DPS’s actions to suspend his license pursuant to the OAC was purely a ministerial act and not a violation of Currington’s procedural due process rights. |
However, DPS should have taken action to obtain an amended abstract from the municipal court when Currington and his attorneys demonstrated to DPS that an incorrect abstract was transmitted to DPS by the City of Tulsa. Instead, DPS merely said they could not act based on the documentation provided to it by Currington or his attorneys because a corrected abstract must come directly from the City of Tulsa. A witness from the City of Tulsa testified at trial that she transmitted the corrected abstract to DPS, but a representative of DPS testified that the corrected abstract was never received. In addition, Currington’s case was not made moot by DPS’s action to unsuspend his license during the pendency of the trial court proceedings because there was no official order for Currington to rely on until after the trial court issued its decision.
|Vote:||Prince, J. (author), Goree, P.J., Mitchell, J., concur.|
|Other:||Cert was not sought. The Appellee moved at OCOCA for attorney’s fees on appeal, arguing that DPS actions were “without reasonable basis or [were] frivolous,” thus entitling Appellee to fees under 12 O.S. § 941(B) at the court below, and therefore, also on appeal. OCOCA granted the application and directed the trial court to take evidence and determine reasonable fees for the appeal. In a separate appeal, DPS has appealed the trial court’s award of approximately $11,500 in fees to Currington for representation before the trial court.|