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Davis v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

July 23, 2010

Charles Lee DAVIS, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Appellee.

Page 1018

Charles Lee Davis, pro se, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Page 1019

W. Michael Perry, Assistant District Attorney, Palmer, Geoffry B. Wildridge, Assistant Attorney General, Fairbanks, and Daniel S. Sullivan, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Before: COATS, Chief Judge, and MANNHEIMER and BOLGER, Judges.

OPINION

BOLGER, Judge.

In two separate cases, Charles Lee Davis was convicted for violating the state's commercial motor vehicle regulations by operating a commercial motor vehicle without a valid medical examiner's certificate (Case No. A-10405) and by operating a commercial motor vehicle that had been placed out of service for safety violations (Case No. A-10521).[1] These cases were consolidated for consideration and decision.

In both cases, Davis contends that the State lacks the authority to enforce, or to adopt as state law, the federal commercial motor vehicle regulations. He also asserts in both cases that he was not operating a commercial motor vehicle, that there were discovery violations, and that the traffic stops were unlawful. In Case No. A-10405, he asserts that the district court erred when it denied his request to play a videotape during trial. Finally, in Case No. A-10521, he argues that he was entitled to a jury trial. We disagree with Davis on all of these issues.

Background

In Case No. A-10405, on June 16, 2008, Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Jake Covey stopped Davis because Davis did not have a license plate on the trailer he was pulling with his semi-tractor. Among other things, under the state's commercial motor vehicle regulations, people who drive commercial motor vehicles are required to carry a valid medical examiner's certificate. [2] When contacted, Davis was unable to produce this certificate. Consequently, he was given a citation for operating a commercial motor vehicle without a valid medical examiner's certificate. At a bench trial, District Court Judge Gregory Heath found Davis guilty of this violation.

In Case No. A-10521, on July 27, 2007, Davis's vehicle was ordered " out of service" by Commercial Enforcement Officer Martin Baston as the result of a routine commercial vehicle inspection at the Glenn Highway outbound weigh station. Davis's vehicle, a tractor-trailer combination, was placed out of service for two reasons. First, because the trailer had an unsecured load of five-gallon buckets, one of which was ready to fall off the trailer. Second, because two adjacent tires on the same axle on the semi-tractor had a tread depth of less than 1/32 of an inch. Baston explained that under the state's regulations, the tread depth on the tires had to be at least 2/32 of an inch.

Four hours later, Officer Baston contacted Davis again. Davis had changed only one of the substandard tires. Because he did not change the other substandard tire, nor adequately secure the load of buckets, his vehicle was still " out of service." Officer Baston issued a citation for operating a commercial motor vehicle that had been placed out of service. At a trial before Magistrate Ronald Wielkopolski, he was found guilty of this violation.

Discussion

The State is enforcing state regulations, not federal regulations

Davis asserts in both of these cases that the State has no authority to enforce the federal law regulating commercial motor vehicles. But the State is enforcing state regulations, not federal. The Alaska Legislature directed the State Department of Transportation to " adopt regulations under AS 44.62 (the Administrative Procedure Act) that are necessary to implement requirements imposed by federal statute or regulation that relate to commercial motor vehicles and that are necessary to avoid loss or withholding of

Page 1020

federal highway money." [3] Based on this authority, the Department adopted as state law various portions of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Consequently, the adopted portions of the federal regulations are now state law and are enforced by various state agencies. Among the regulations adopted as state law are the regulations Davis violated-17 AAC 25.210(a)(5) and (b)(5) (medical certificate required) and 17 AAC 25.210(a)(8) (moving " out of service" vehicle before repair completed).

Regulations enacted by state agencies are presumptively valid, and the burden of proving invalidity is on the party challenging the regulations.[4] Generally speaking, regulations promulgated by an executive department must be authorized by statute.[5] Also, a regulation must be consistent with and reasonably necessary to carry out the purpose of the authorizing statute.[6] A regulation is consistent with a statute if it has a reasonable relation to statutory objectives.[7]

Here, AS 19.10.060(c) specifically directs the Department to adopt regulations necessary to implement requirements imposed by federal statutes or regulations relating to commercial motor vehicles. By expressly adopting the pertinent portions of the federal regulations and revising them as necessary to apply them to Alaska roadways, the Department acted consistently with its statutory authority and the legislature's objective.[8]

We conclude that Davis has not shown that the State lacked the authority to adopt and enforce commercial motor vehicle regulations patterned on the corresponding federal regulations, nor has he shown that the state's commercial motor vehicle regulations are unconstitutional or otherwise invalid.

Davis was driving a commercial motor vehicle

In Case No. A-10405, Davis contends that the vehicle he was driving did not fall under the definitions of " commercial motor vehicle" and " commercial purpose" and that " [n]ot one shred of evidence was presented that [he] was involved" in using a commercial motor vehicle for commercial purposes. Meanwhile, in Case A-10521, he asserts that he was not operating a commercial motor vehicle in " commerce" as that term is defined by federal statute; that is, he contends that he was not operating a vehicle in interstate commerce.[9] He also contends that he was not operating a commercial vehicle because he was not getting paid to haul property.

Under the state regulations that Davis violated, a commercial motor vehicle is (1) " a self-propelled or towed vehicle ... used to transport passengers or property for commercial purposes," (2) " used upon a highway or vehicular way," and (3) that " has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds." [10] The phrase " commercial purposes" means " activities for which a person receives direct monetary compensation or activities for which a person receives no direct monetary compensation but that are ...


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