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2004-UP-411 - Shuler v. SC Department of Public Safety
THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

James Michael Shuler,        Respondent,

v.

South Carolina Department of Public Safety,        Appellant.


Appeal From Charleston County
Thomas L. Hughston, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2004-UP-411   
Submitted April 21, 2004 – Filed June 24, 2004


REVERSED


Patrick M. Teague, Senior  Asst. General Counsel, Frank L. Valenta, Jr., General Counsel, SC Dept. of Motor Vehicles, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Timothy Clay Kulp, of N. Charleston, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  The circuit court reversed the ruling of an administrative officer to suspend the license of James Schuler. We reverse.

FACTS

An officer for the Mount Pleasant Police Department arrested Respondent James Schuler on June 15, 2002. A citizen observed a vehicle driving erratically and called the officer; the officer made the same observation. The officer stopped the car, approached the car, asked the driver for his license, registration, and insurance. Respondent was the driver. The officer smelled alcohol on Respondent. Respondent was unsteady and his speech was slurred. Respondent admitted that he had drunk some alcohol that evening.

The officer placed Respondent under arrest for driving under the influence and transported him to the police department. There, the officer asked Respondent to take a DataMaster test. The officer is a certified DataMaster operator. The officer placed Respondent in the DataMaster room and told Respondent he was being videotaped. The officer read and gave the Advisement of Implied Consent Rights / Videotaping to Respondent. However, Respondent refused to take the test and the machine registered a refusal. Accordingly, Respondent’s driving license was suspended.

Respondent requested an administrative hearing. The administrative officer sustained the suspension. Respondent appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court reversed, finding that to simply read Respondent’s rights to him did not meet the statutory requirements under S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2950. SCDPS appeals.

ISSUE 

Did the trial court err by reversing the ruling of the administrative officer finding that there was no substantial evidence to support it? 

LAW/ANALYSIS        

The findings of an administrative agency are presumed correct and will be set aside only if unsupported by substantial evidence. Kearse v. State Health & Human Servs. Fin. Comm'n, 318 S.C. 198, 199, 456 S.E.2d 892, 893 (1995).  Substantial evidence is defined as “such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”  Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 135, 276 S.E.2d 304, 307 (1981).  A court may not substitute its judgment for that of an agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact unless the agency's findings are clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative and substantial evidence on the whole record. Rodney v. Michelin Tire Corp., 320 S.C. 515, 519, 466 S.E.2d 357, 359 (1996).                 

SCDPS asserts the trial court exceeded its scope of review when the trial court substituted its judgment regarding a question of fact when there was substantial evidence in the record to support administrative agency’s findings.  We agree. 

Section 56-5-2950(a)(1) sets forth the procedures regarding implied consent to testing for drugs or alcohol.  The statute mandates, in pertinent part, that:

No tests may be administered or samples obtained unless the person has been informed in writing that:

1)    He does not have to take the test or give the samples, but that his privilege to drive must be suspended or denied for at least ninety days if he refuses to submit to the tests and that his refusal may be used against him in court;

2)    His privilege to drive must be suspended for at least thirty days if he takes the tests or gives the samples and has an alcohol concentration of fifteen one-hundredths of one percent or more;

3)    He has the right to have a qualified person of his own choosing conduct additional independent tests at his expense;

4)    He has the right to request an administrative hearing within thirty days of the issuance of the notice of suspension; and

5)    If he does not request an administrative hearing or if his suspension is upheld at the administrative hearing, he must enroll in an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program.

S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2950(a) (Supp. 2003).

In reviewing the record, we believe there was substantial evidence to support the administrative officer’s ruling.  The officer read the Implied Consent Rights form to Respondent and gave a copy of the rights to Respondent prior to attempting to administer the DataMaster test. Therefore, Respondent was advised – in writing – of his rights as they are enumerated in section 56-5-2950.  It is not required that the administrative officer enumerate how each portion of the statute has been satisfied, only that substantial evidence exist to support his decision.  Therefore, the trial court erred in reversing the administrative officer’s decision.

REVERSED.

GOOLSBY, HOWARD, and BEATTY, JJ., concur.