Edwards v. Jessup, ___ N.C. App. ___, 2022-NCCOA-157 (Mar. 15, 2022)

The superior court erred in reversing a DMV civil revocation of a driver’s license in a case where the appellee refused to consent to a chemical analysis after being charged with DWI.  An officer responded to a call that a driver had fallen asleep in the drive-through lane of a fast food restaurant and discovered the appellee asleep in the driver’s seat of her vehicle, which was not running and was parked in the parking lot.  After an investigation where the appellee admitted to falling asleep while in the drive-through lane and failed a field sobriety test, she was charged with DWI.  The appellee refused to consent to a blood sample for a chemical analysis, causing the DMV to revoke her license pursuant to G.S. 20-16.2 and sustain the revocation following an administrative hearing.  The superior court reversed the revocation on two grounds, finding that there was a lack of evidence that the appellee was operating a motor vehicle and also finding that the procedures of G.S. 20-16.2 deprived the appellee of due process.  Leaving open the question of whether there was sufficient evidence to convict the appellee of DWI, the Court of Appeals found that the officer had probable cause to believe that the appellee was operating the vehicle, as required by the statute.  As for the due process issue, the Court of Appeals found that the procedures prescribed by G.S. 20-16.2 do not violate due process merely because DMV hearing officers are DMV employees and there is no attorney at revocation hearings putting on the State’s case.