This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




Kevin Virgil Hedtke, petitioner,



Commissioner of Public Safety,


Filed May 4, 1999


Toussaint, Chief Judge

Carver County District Court

File No. C6981375

Francis J. Eggert, P.O. Box 789, Winsted, MN 55395 (for appellant)

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Joel A. Watne, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.[*]


TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

In July 1985, October 1987, and January 1997, respondent Commissioner of Public Safety (the commissioner) cancelled and denied appellant Kevin Hedtke's driver's license for alcohol-related driving incidents. In June 1998, Hedtke petitioned the district court, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 171.19(1996), to expunge the "rehabilitation required" designation associated with his 1987 license cancellation and grant him a limited license for work purposes. Because Minn. Stat. § 171.19 does not authorize a district court to review a past license cancellation or issue a limited license when the requirements for such a license have not been met, we affirm the district court's denial of his petition.



In denying Hedtke's petition, the district court determined that it did not have the authority under Minn. Stat. § 171.19 (1996) to expunge an eight-year-old "rehabilitation required" designation after such rehabilitation had already been completed. Statutory construction is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. State v. Murphy, 545 N.W.2d 909, 914 (Minn. 1996).

Minn. Stat. § 171.19 directs the district court to "determine whether the petitioner is entitled to a license or is subject to revocation, suspension, cancellation, disqualification, or refusal of license." Minn. Stat. § 171.19. The petitioner has the burden of proving that a license was improperly refused, revoked, suspended, or cancelled. Madison v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 585 N.W.2d 77, 82 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. Dec. 15, 1998). Unless a petitioner successfully challenges the basis for a license cancellation, rehabilitation is required. See Minn. R. 7503.1700, subp. 6 (1997) (commissioner shall cancel and deny the drivers license if sufficient cause to believe person consumed alcohol in violation of abstinence requirement and shall not reinstate the license until the rehabilitation requirements are met).

In 1998, the Minnesota legislature amended Minn. Stat. § 171.19 to limit the time to challenge license cancellations. 1998 Minn. Laws ch. 405, § 6. Effective August 1, 1998, a petition must be filed within 180 days of the effective date of the order for cancellation or before expiration of the withdrawal period, whichever occurs first. Minn. Stat. § 171.19 (1998); Minn. Stat. § 645.02 (1998) (unless otherwise specified, a statute becomes effective the first of August following its enactment). Hedtke filed his petition in June 1998, before the amendment became effective. We thus address whether the pre-amendment statute permits Hedtke to challenge a ten-year-old cancellation of a license that was later reinstated.

We conclude that the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 171.19(1996) only authorizes judicial review of an existing license withdrawal. The statute states that the district court shall determine "whether the petitioner * * * is subject to * * * cancellation." Minn. Stat. § 171.19 (1996) (emphasis added). The legislature's use of the present tense indicates that the statute is intended to apply to cancellations that were still in effect at the time of the petition's filing. This interpretation comports with the statute's remedy: reinstatement of the petitioner's license. Accordingly, the statute does not permit a challenge to a past license cancellation once the cancellation has ended with reinstatement of the license.

Hedtke did not challenge his 1987 license cancellation before reinstatement in 1990, despite the possible collateral consequence of having a second rehabilitation requirement on his driver's record. The record indicates that the commissioner reinstated Hedtke's license after deeming his rehabilitation complete. The record also contains sufficient evidence supporting the 1987 cancellation. The commissioner introduced a police report of a December 17, 1986, alcohol-related incident. According to the report, a Carver County Sheriff stopped Hedtke's vehicle for speeding. The officer smelled alcohol on the driver's breath. Answering the officer's questions, the driver identified himself as Hedtke and gave his birthdate. After admitting that he had six or seven alcoholic drinks and acknowledging that he was probably over the legal limit, he fled the scene and was not apprehended. Notwithstanding Hedtke's assertion that it was his car but not him, the police report gave the commissioner sufficient cause to believe that Hedtke had consumed alcohol after his sworn June 30, 1985, abstinence date. The district court did not err in denying Hedtke's petition.


Hedtke also contends the district court erred in not granting him a limited license for work purposes. The district court only has the authority to order the commissioner to issue a limited license if the commissioner abused its discretion in refusing to issue one. State v. Hanson, 356 N.W.2d 689, 693 (Minn. 1984). Hedtke is not entitled to a limited license under either the statute or corresponding agency rules because his license has been cancelled as "inimical to public safety or welfare." See Minn. Stat. § 171.04, subd. 1(9), (13) (1998) (department shall not issue a license when issuance would be inimical to public safety or would occur during a period of cancellation); Minn. R. 7503.1800, subp. 2 (1997) (commissioner shall not issue a limited license to a person whose drivers license is cancelled or denied). The district court did not err in refusing Hedtke's request for a limited license.


[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.