Sunday, April 17, 2011

Can an Out of State DUI Prior be Used Against Someone in California?

In California, a person who gets a DUI is subject to being charged with a prior offense even if it is one that took place out of state. A conviction of an out-of-state offense that would have been a violation of  CA Vehicle code §23152 or §23153 if committed in California constitutes a conviction of those sections for purposes of the Vehicle Code, including its sentencing provisions. Veh C §23626. For example in tha case of California v Crane (2006) 142 CA4th 425 the Court held that a Colorado conviction for driving while impaired, which requires only that the defendant be affected to the slightest degree, cannot serve as a prior conviction for purposes of enhancing DUI sentence; California violations require an appreciable degree of impairment.

However, in DMV administrative driver’s license suspension proceedings, it is sufficient if the out-of-state offense is “substantially similar” to the California DUI statutes. In the case of McDonald v Department of Motor Vehicles (2000) 77 CA4th 677, 681–689, the court engaged in juxtaposing California and Colorado DUI statutes and finding sufficient similarity even though Colorado statute presumes intoxication at blood-alcohol level of .05 % or more, while Veh C §§23152 and 23153 only presume intoxication at blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or more. This decision is consistent with the Vehicle Code section 13363(b)  which states that an out-of-state conviction must be “substantially the same” in substance, interpretation, and enforcement as the California law pertaining to that conviction in order to be given reciprocal treatment by DMV under Driver’s License Compact.  Many DUI Lawyers however can find loopholes in the laws or utilize innovative strategies in Court to defeat the prior, check with a local attorney about your specific case.

Recently, attorney Ruff represented a client in Torrance Court for a DUI and the person had two prior out of state DWI convictions.  The DA charged her with a third time offense for a Redondo Beach arrest and she was looking at mandatory 120 days in jail if convicted.  Fortunately, Matthew knew how to get around that by compelling the prosecutor to produce certified records of the prior offenses, they could not do it.