Barnebey v. Alaska Department of Administration, Division of Motor VehiclesAnnotate this Case
Jason Barnebey was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. At the police station he was administered a breath test by a DataMaster testing instrument, which showed a result of .081 percent alcohol, above the .08 legal limit. Barnebey elected to obtain an independent chemical test, which showed a result of .073. Following an administrative hearing, a hearing officer relied on the DataMaster breath-test result to sustain the Department of Motor Vehicles’s revocation of the Barnebey's license pursuant to AS 28.15.165(c). Barnebey appealed, arguing, as he had at the administrative hearing, that it was error not to consider the DataMaster’s inherent margin of error in determining whether his test result was over the legal limit. The superior court affirmed the hearing officer’s decision and awarded attorney’s fees to the State; Barnebey appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court determined the hearing officer properly interpreted the governing law and did not violate due process in her consideration of the DataMaster’s margin of error. The Court affirmed the decision revoking the man’s license. However, the Court concluded it was error for the superior court to award attorney’s fees to the State without considering whether the man was entitled to protection as a constitutional litigant under AS 09.60.010(c)(2). The fee award was therefore vacated, and the matter remanded for further consideration of only that issue.