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McDougall v. White

January 21, 2005

DANIEL A. MCDOUGALL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JESSE WHITE, ILLINOIS SECRETARY OF STATE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 03MR403 Honorable Dennis L. Schwartz, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton

For Publication

Plaintiff, Daniel A. McDougall, filed an action in the circuit court of Sangamon County for administrative review of the decision of defendant, Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State (Secretary), denying plaintiff's petition for reinstatement of driving privileges. The circuit court reversed the Secretary and ordered full reinstatement. We reverse the circuit court and reinstate the Secretary's decision.

I. BACKGROUND

On September 19, 1992, plaintiff was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in violation of section 11-501 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-501). He refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test, resulting in the automatic suspension of his driver's license. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-501.1. He pleaded guilty to DUI and received court supervision. Plaintiff regained his driving privileges only to be arrested a second time for DUI on February 22, 1999. Plaintiff again pleaded guilty to DUI, and on January 29, 2000, the Secretary entered an order revoking his driver's license pursuant to section 6-205(a)(2) of the Code (625 ILCS 5/6-205(a)(2) (West 1998)). Plaintiff was eligible for full reinstatement after April 9, 2000. Through the formal hearing process, plaintiff on three occasions unsuccessfully attempted to regain some type of driving relief.

On July 24, 2002, after plaintiff's fourth hearing, the Secretary issued an order denying him full reinstatement but granting him a restricted driving permit (RDP) for work purposes valid through September 16, 2003. Because plaintiff was considered a recidivist, he was ordered to comply with the RDP procedures related to the use of a breath-alcohol-ignition-interlock device (BAIID). See 625 ILCS 5/6-205(h) (West 2000). Plaintiff installed the BAIID in his vehicle and complied with all conditions related thereto until July 22, 2003.

During his formal hearing on July 31, 2003, plaintiff informed the hearing officer that he had the BAIID removed from his vehicle "because [he] fulfilled [his] contract." The hearing officer then prepared his findings and recommendations, and on August 29, 2003, the Secretary issued his order adopting the same. According to the hearing officer, plaintiff had provided sufficient evidence to carry his burden of proving that his alcohol problem had been resolved. However, in light of plaintiff's testimony that he had the BAIID removed from his vehicle, the hearing officer recommended plaintiff be denied full reinstatement. The hearing officer noted that a report had been sent to the BAIID Unit (presumably by the BAIID technician who removed the device), which indicated the device was "deinstalled" on July 22, 2003. The report indicated plaintiff asked that the BAIID be removed from his vehicle because he had a hearing scheduled on July 31, 2002, and he no longer wanted to pay for the device. The hearing officer found plaintiff's failure to voluntarily surrender his RDP after the device was removed from his vehicle was a violation of the Secretary's regulations pertaining to the use of the BAIID and justified denying him relief.

On September 30, 2003, plaintiff filed a petition for administrative review with the circuit court. On March 25, 2004, the circuit court reversed the Secretary's decision and granted plaintiff full reinstatement. The court found the Secretary's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence and an abuse of discretion. On April 21, 2004, the Secretary filed a motion for stay of judgment pending appeal. This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Secretary's Administrative Decision

The Secretary appeals the circuit court's order reversing his denial of plaintiff's petition for reinstatement. The Secretary contends his decision denying plaintiff's request was not against the manifest weight of the evidence or a result of an arbitrary or capricious exercise of discretion. We agree.

We first note plaintiff has not filed an appellee's brief. However, because the record is simple and the issue is such that we can easily decide it without the aid of a brief, we will consider the appeal on its merits. In re Marriage of Rogers, 213 Ill. 2d 129, 135, 820 N.E.2d 386, 389 (2004).

When reviewing the appeal of an administrative decision, this court reviews the agency's decision, not the decision of the circuit court. Harris v. Department of Human Services, 345 Ill. App. 3d 764, 766, 803 N.E.2d 1063, 1065 (2004). If the decision involves a pure question of law, our review is de novo. Carpetland U.S.A., Inc. v. Illinois Department of Employment Security, 201 Ill. 2d 351, 369, 776 N.E.2d 166, 177 (2002). "The legal effect of undisputed facts is such a legal question." Castillo v. Jackson, 207 Ill. App. 3d 799, 803, 566 N.E.2d 404, 405 (1990).

Courts must give substantial weight and deference to the interpretation placed on a statute or regulation by the agency charged with its administration and enforcement. Illinois Consolidated Telephone Co. v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 95 Ill. 2d 142, 152, 447 N.E.2d 295, 300 (1983). Courts will not interfere with the administrative body's authority unless it was a result of an arbitrary or capricious exercise of discretion or the decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Clark v. White, 343 Ill. App. 3d 689, 693, 798 N.E.2d 412, 416 (2003). "If the record contains any evidence which fairly supports the agency's decision, such ...


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