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Wolfe v. Georgia Dep't of Driver Services

Court of Appeals of Georgia

January 26, 2015

WOLFE
v.
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF DRIVER SERVICES

Driver's license. Cobb Superior Court. Before Judge Grubbs.

Marko L. Burgar, for appellant.

Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Joseph J. Drolet, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Amy M. Radley, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

MCMILLIAN, Judge. Phipps, C. J., and Ellington, P. J., concur.

OPINION

Page 529

McMillian, Judge.

Gregory A. Wolfe appeals an order of the Superior Court of Cobb County affirming the decision of the Georgia Department of Driver Services (the " Department" ) to cancel his Georgia driver's license. On appeal, Wolfe contends that the Department is without authority to [330 Ga.App. 553] revoke his license based on the suspension of his privilege to drive in the State of Illinois where it is undisputed that the State of Illinois never issued him a driver's license. We disagree and affirm.

" On appeal, we review the lower court's interpretation of a statute de novo, as statutory interpretation is a question of law." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Nisbet v. Davis, 327 Ga.App. 559, 567 (1) (c) (760 S.E.2d 179) (2014). The relevant facts are not in dispute. In 1987 and again in 1989, Wolfe was convicted of a DUI-related offense in Illinois. Wolfe has never been a resident of Illinois and has never been issued a driver's license by Illinois.

In 1999, Wolfe moved to the State of Georgia and obtained a driver's license in this state. In 2001, he was convicted of a DUI in Georgia. Several years later, Illinois received notice of this conviction and imposed a lifetime ban on Wolfe's privilege to drive in that state based on an Illinois statute enacted in 1999.[1] Following the Illinois ban, the Department cancelled Wolfe's Georgia driver's license pursuant to OCGA § 40-5-50, claiming that the withdrawal of Wolfe's driving privileges in Illinois renders him ineligible for the issuance of a driver's license in Georgia.

Wolfe appealed the cancellation of his driver's license with the Department, which thereafter issued its final agency decision on January 16, 2013, affirming the cancellation of his license. Wolfe then appealed the final agency decision to the Superior Court of Cobb County. On April 8, 2014, the trial court affirmed the final agency decision, reasoning that the cancellation of Wolfe's license was authorized by OCGA § 40-5-22 (c) (7) because the term " license issued by any other jurisdiction" includes the privilege to drive whether or not such person held a valid,

Page 530

physical license from that jurisdiction. Wolfe timely filed an application for discretionary appeal with this Court, which we granted.

In his sole enumeration of error, Wolfe argues that the trial court erred in concluding that the Department has the authority to revoke a Georgia driver's license based on suspension of the privilege to drive [330 Ga.App. 554] in another state when the other state never issued a physical driver's license to that person. Our analysis must start with construing the statutes setting out the Department's authority to cancel a driver's license. And in so doing, we apply the fundamental rule of statutory construction -- that we should construe statutes according to their terms, giving words their plain and ordinary meaning. See Lakeview Behavioral Health System, LLC v. UHS Peachford, LP, 321 Ga.App. 820, 824 (743 S.E.2d 492) (2013).

OCGA § 40-5-50 authorizes the Department to cancel any driver's license previously issued by the Department upon determining that the holder of the license was not entitled to its issuance. And, pursuant to OCGA § 40-5-52 (a), the Department " shall suspend ... the license of any resident of this state and may suspend a nonresident's operating privilege, upon receiving notice of a conviction in another state of an offense described in [OCGA § ] 40-5-54 or [OCGA § ] 40-6-391[[2]] or any drug related offense." [3] In addition, OCGA ยง 40-5-22 (c) (7) provides that the Department " shall not issue any driver's license to nor renew the driver's license of any person ... [w]hose license ...


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