By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Carbon County was not required to pay for a blood test for a man who challenged the accuracy of a breathalyzer test when he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled.
The court upheld the decision of an administrative hearing officer to suspend the driver’s license of Steven Flauding Jr., rejecting his arguments that the hearing officer should not have considered the results of a breathalyzer test that showed he had a blood-alcohol content of .08%.
Flauding alleged law enforcement officers who arrested him on a charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol in July 2020 interfered with his right to obtain an independent blood-alcohol chemical test because they would not provide payment for the test.
But justices ruled the administrative officer made the correct decision.
“Substantial evidence supported the (Office of Administrative Hearings’) determination that Mr. Flauding’s inability to obtain an independent blood alcohol test was not caused by law enforcement, but was a result of Mr. Flauding’s inability to pay,” said the opinion, written by Justice Michael Davis. “Since the arresting officer did not interfere with Mr. Flauding’s right to obtain an independent chemical test, his statutory and due process rights were not violated.”
According to the ruling, Flauding was arrested by a Rawlins police officer after Flauding’s car was seen in sagebrush off of the road.
When he was arrested, Flauding admitted to drinking six beers. He did not have his wallet.
Flauding was taken to the Carbon County Jail, where a breathalyzer test showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.8%.
Flauding questioned the accuracy of the test and was told he could have chemical test conducted involving a blood draw, but that he would have to pay the $150 fee.
Flauding argued that Carbon County was required to pay the fee so the arresting officer declined to take him to a facility for the blood test.
After his arrest, the Wyoming Department of Transportation told Flauding his driver’s license would be suspended for 90 days and that he would be disqualified from holding a commercial driver license for one year.
After Flauding requested a contested case hearing, his attorney argued that Flauding’s right to seek an independent blood test to determine his blood-alcohol content was violated because the arresting officer would not take him to get the test. As a result, the attorney said, the results of the breathalyzer test should be discarded.
“The hearing examiner found that the officer did not interfere with Mr. Flauding’s attempt to obtain an independent test, but that the test was instead unavailable to him because he did not have the means to pay for it,” the opinion said.
A state district court upheld the hearing examiner’s finding and justices said the decision was correct.
“We have reviewed the record and body camera footage, and we have found nothing to suggest that law enforcement interfered with Mr. Flauding’s right to obtain an independent chemical test,” the opinion said.