In Barnebey v. Department of Administration, Division of Motor Vehicles, the supreme court held that a Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hearing officer did not violate Barnebey’s due process rights by revoking his driver’s license because of his breath test results without considering margin of error evidence. A state trooper stopped Barnebey while he was driving and administered a DataMaster breath test which produced a result of 0.81, 0.01 over the legal limit of 0.8, entitling the DMV to revoke Barnebey’s license unless he requested an administrative hearing. At his hearing, Barnebey argued that the breath-test result was within the margin of error for the DataMaster device, and that an independent chemical test taken 35 minutes after the breath test demonstrated he was under the legal limit. The hearing officer stated that the device was “within its working tolerances” and that the passage of time contributed to the difference between the two test results, upholding the revocation of Barnebey’s license. The superior court rejected Barnebey’s argument on appeal and awarded attorneys’ fees to the DMV.
On appeal to the supreme court, Barnebey asserted that the DMV’s failure to consider margin of error evidence before revoking his license violated his due process rights. The supreme court reasoned that although margin of error evidence is relevant to criminal prosecutions that premise liability solely on blood alcohol content, the DMV’s revocation statute premises liability exclusively on the results of a breath test. Specifically, the statutory basis for revocation excludes margin-of-error evidence, and the supreme court noted that the statute’s legislative history indicated a preference for a narrow, streamlined way to determine liability. Likewise, the court determined that substantial evidence supported the hearing officer’s decision to accord more weight to the breath-test result than the chemical test. However, the supreme court noted that because Barnebey was a constitutional litigant, the superior court must determine on remand whether he had sufficient economic incentive to bring his appeal before imposing attorneys’ fees. Accordingly, the supreme court held that the DMV hearing officer did not violate Barnebey’s due process rights when by revoking his driver’s license based on the results of a breath test without considering margin of error evidence.