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Piper v. Department of Motor Vehicles

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Mono

December 12, 2014

CHARLES JAMES PIPER, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES, Defendant and Appellant.

Super. Ct. No. CV130049

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COUNSEL

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Alicia M.B. Fowler, Assistant Attorney General, Judith A. Recchio and Shanna M. Thomas, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Appellant.

Law Offices of Peter C. Bronson, Peter C. Bronson; Law Offices of Timothy B. Sanford and Timothy B. Sanford for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

DUARTE, J.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) appeals from a judgment granting a petition for writ of ordinary mandate compelling it to set aside its calculation of the period of postconviction suspension of licensee Charles James Piper (Piper), contending the trial court misconstrued the statutes governing the interplay of suspensions due to administrative actions by DMV and criminal actions in drunk driving (DUI) cases. We agree with DMV, and therefore shall reverse with directions to deny the writ.

BACKGROUND[1]

After Piper was arrested for DUI on July 4, 2012, he was issued an administrative per se suspension notice, alleging his blood alcohol reading exceeded.08 percent. After a hearing, DMV suspended his driver’s license effective September 19, 2012, through January 18, 2013 (four months). (Veh Code, § 13353.3, subd. (b)(1);[2] see Zink v. Gourley (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 774, 779-780 & fn. 6 [91 Cal.Rptr.2d 896] (Zink).) The written order states in capital letters: “This action is independent of any other action taken by the

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court or this Department.” (See Robertson v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 938, 948-949 [9 Cal.Rptr.2d 319] (Robertson).)

After 51 days, Piper applied for and received a restricted license that allowed him to drive to and from work and his mandatory first DUI offender class. DMV reinstated his full, unrestricted, driving privileges on March 19, 2013.

One day before the reinstatement, on March 18, 2013, Piper was convicted of DUI (§ 23152, subd. (b) [driving with.08 percent or more of blood alcohol]), based on the same incident.[3] DMV again suspended his license, by order dated April 2, 2013, which provided he could again apply for a restricted license, but his license could not be reinstated until September 18, 2013, six months after his conviction. (§ 13352, subd. (a)(1).) Piper sought a writ of mandate compelling DMV to credit him for the first suspension, so that “the total period of suspension shall not exceed the longer of the two suspension periods.” However, DMV credited Piper with only the 51 days his license was suspended before he asked for and received a restricted license based on his first (administrative) suspension. Piper received a restricted license after his second (postconviction) suspension, which again allowed him to drive to and from DUI classes and work. (See § 13352.4, subd. (a).) However, he alleged: DMV “has conceded Petitioner is entitled to serve the entirety of his second suspension with a restricted license yet refuses to credit Petitioner with exactly the same restricted license terms with which Petitioner already complied during his first suspension. In other words, [DMV]’s position seems to be that Petitioner’s restricted license counts toward his second (current) suspension but not toward his first suspension.”

Based on these facts, the trial court found Piper was “treated in an arbitrary and capricious fashion simply because of the unusually lengthy time lapse between his arrest and administrative suspension pursuant to [] § 13353.2, and his eventual conviction and resultant suspension pursuant to [] § 13352.” Concluding that DMV “has an affirmative duty to run Petitioner’s two suspensions for the same incident ...


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