• Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth
  • 13-16-00082-CV
  • DORI CONTRERAS, JUSTICE
Laura Smith refused to give a breath sample during a traffic stop, and her driver's license was automatically suspended for 180 days. An administrative law judge upheld the suspension, and she appealed in county court, arguing he lacked substantial evidence that the officer had probable cause for the stop. The Texas Department of Public Safety, the appellant here, did not attend the hearing, despite notice, and the county court orally ruled for Smith. Three days later, appellant challenged jurisdiction, claiming Smith did not properly serve her petition of appeal. The county court issued a written ruling reinstating Smith's license, denied appellant's motion for a new trial, and an appeal followed. The court, substituting its original opinion, found that the requirements for Smith to serve the State Office of Administrative Hearings, and obtain a copy of the record from SOAH, do not implicate jurisdiction. Furthermore, it found the county court had a complete copy of the record. However, the court found that serving notice to the District Attorney, as Smith did, is not sufficient to notify the department of Public Safety. Although the District Attorney routinely represents the department at such hearings, the District Attorney is not the department's presumptive counsel and the trial judge noted that appellant was not represented, the court found. The court found appellant's due process rights were violated, and sustained appellant's objection that trial court abused its discretion by denying a new trial. The court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. Texas Department of Public Safety v. Smith, Corpus Christi Edinburg Court of Appeals, Case No. 13-16-00082-CV, 5/4/17.

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