The Missouri Court of Appeals Western District has upheld the license revocation of a man arrested for DWI at a Belton Taco Bell after ruling his driver’s license showed he’d assumed all obligations of driving, including implied consent to chemical testing.
In a Feb. 11 ruling, a three-judge panel affirmed the 2018 revocation of Bryan Goforth’s license and driving privileges.
Goforth, of Pevely, was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in the early-morning hours of Feb. 24, 2018, according to the opinion, written by Judge Cynthia L. Martin.
An employee called police to report a man in a black GMC Yukon was parked in the Taco Bell lot after previously falling asleep in his vehicle in the restaurant’s drive-through lane. An officer arrived and found a man — later identified as Goforth — asleep in the driver’s seat of a vehicle in the parking lot, with its side window down and headlights and taillights on.
The officer reported smelling a strong odor of intoxicants coming from inside the vehicle. When the officer woke Goforth, he explained he was waiting for a food order from Taco Bell and denied falling asleep in the drive-through lane, Martin said.
After observing several indicators that Goforth was intoxicated, the officer transported him to the Belton jail, where the officer read to him the implied consent warning required by law. Goforth refused to submit to a chemical breath test.
The officer gave Goforth written notice of the revocation of his license and privilege to drive.
Goforth later filed a petition to review the revocation of his license and privilege to drive. He argued that Cass County Associate Circuit Judge Jeffrey L. Cox should set aside the revocation because there was no evidence he had ever operated a motor vehicle on a public highway.
In February 2019, Cox sustained the director’s revocation of Goforth’s license and privilege to drive. Goforth appealed, renewing his argument that there was no evidence he had operated a motor vehicle on a public highway.
He argued that evidence was required before his consent to submit to chemical testing could be implied, and in the absence of consent, his refusal to submit to testing could not support revocation of his license.
Martin said a judge hearing a challenge to a revocation need determine only three elements: whether the person was arrested or stopped, whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition and whether the person refused to submit to a test.
She said Goforth’s argument that the director needed to prove whether he’d ever operated a vehicle on a public highway is “directly contradicted” by the language of Section 302.574.4.
The panel recognized that Missouri courts consistently have construed the third element to require proof that the refusal was valid, however, she said.
She said Goforth’s argument “can be fairly read to contend that refusal to submit is not valid unless it is established that a driver impliedly consented to submit to chemical testing by ‘operat[ing] a vehicle upon the public highways of this state’ as provided in section 577.020.1(1).”
No Missouri case has directly addressed whether a valid refusal to submit requires proof that the driver has ever operated a vehicle on the state’s public highways, she said, although two cases have indirectly addressed the subject: the Western District’s 1996 ruling in Bertram v. Director of Revenue and the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District’s 1996 ruling in Peeler v. Director of Revenue.
In both cases, the courts concluded that it was not required to have proof a driver was operating a vehicle on a public highway at the time of the arrest, she said.
Martin said there was substantial evidence allowing Cox to conclude Goforth gave implied consent to chemical testing by operating a vehicle on the state’s public highways.
Goforth had a valid Missouri driver’s license at the time of arrest, and the acceptance of the Missouri driving privilege by applying for and receiving a license permits the inference that a driver is assuming all obligations associated with operating a vehicle on the public highways, including implied consent to chemical testing, the judge said.
“Stated another way, it is reasonable to infer from a driver’s application for and acceptance of a Missouri driver’s license that the driver will operate a vehicle on the public highways of Missouri after receipt of that license,” she said.
Judges Gary D. Witt and Missouri Supreme Court Judge Zel M. Fischer, who sat as a special judge on the case, concurred.
Jeffrey Eastman of Gladstone represented Goforth. He could not be reached for comment. A Department of Revenue spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
The case is Goforth v. Director of Revenue, WD82604.