IN THE MATTER OF CIMERON GRANT ERICKSON, Petitioner and Appellee,
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Respondent and Appellant.
CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON MAY 30, 2017
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE DOUGLAS E.
RICHARD L. JOHNSON Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorney for
petitioner and appellee.
E. HOWELL Special Assistant Attorney General South Dakota
Department of Public Safety Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys
for respondent and appellant.
GILBERTSON, CHIEF JUSTICE
Cimeron Grant Erickson, who holds a commercial driver's
license, pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while his
blood alcohol content was 0.08 percent or more. The South
Dakota Department of Public Safety subsequently disqualified
him from operating commercial motor vehicles for one year.
Erickson appealed the Department's decision to the
circuit court, which reversed the Department's decision
without remanding. The Department appeals. We reverse the
circuit court's decision.
and Procedural History
On July 30, 2011, Erickson was arrested for driving his
motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol. On November
3, 2011, Erickson pleaded guilty to driving a vehicle while
his blood alcohol content was 0.08 percent or more, in
violation of SDCL 32-23-1(1). At Erickson's sentencing
hearing on December 19, Magistrate Judge Alan D. Dietrich
suspended the imposition of sentence and placed Erickson on
probation for a period of three years. Erickson successfully
completed probation, and on January 2, 2015, Magistrate
Dietrich discharged Erickson and signed an order sealing his
Prior to Erickson's 2011 arrest, he worked as a truck
driver in South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North
Dakota, and Wyoming. He obtained his commercial driver's
license in South Dakota in 2003. On January 13, 2015, the
Department notified Erickson that because of his plea, it was
disqualifying him from operating a commercial motor vehicle
for one year pursuant to SDCL 32-12A-36. On January 22,
Erickson requested a hearing. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Ryan Darling held a telephonic hearing with the parties on
March 17. During the hearing, the parties referred to the
offense for which Erickson pleaded guilty as a
"DWI." On June 16, ALJ Darling issued proposed
findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order
recommending Erickson be disqualified from holding a
commercial driver's license for one year. The following
day, the Department's program director, Jane Schrank,
issued a final decision adopting ALJ Darling's
Erickson appealed the Department's decision to circuit
court. The court determined that the record before ALJ
Darling included neither the complete criminal file nor a
transcript of Erickson's plea hearing before Magistrate
Dietrich. According to the court, the docket sheet on file
stated that Erickson pleaded guilty to "driving under
the influence of alcohol." However, after reviewing an
audio recording of the plea hearing, the court concluded
Erickson pleaded guilty to driving with a blood alcohol
content of 0.08 percent or more under SDCL 32-23-1(1)-not to
driving while under the influence of alcohol under SDCL
32-23-1(2). The circuit court concluded that SDCL 32-23-1(1)
and -1(2) set forth distinct crimes and that SDCL
32-12A-36(1) contemplates only convictions under SDCL
32-23-1(1). Thus, because Erickson pleaded guilty to driving
a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or
more, the court concluded SDCL 32-12A-36(1)'s
disqualification did not apply to Erickson and reversed.
The Department appeals, raising the following issue: Whether
pleading guilty to driving with a blood alcohol content of
0.08 percent or more in violation of SDCL 32-23-1(1) is a
conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol
within the meaning of SDCL 32-12A-36(1).
The central issue in this case is a question of statutory
construction, which we review de novo. State v.
Underwood, 2017 S.D. 3, ¶ 5, 890 N.W.2d 240, 241.
We give no deference to the circuit court's legal