California Courts of Appeal Issue Important Ruling on Felony DUI and the Three Strikes Law
November 21, 2013

The California Courts of Appeal recently decided a case that may have implications for individuals convicted of DUI in California. More specifically, the case addresses sentencing for individuals who were previously convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (DUI manslaughter). According to the California Courts of Appeal, the prosecutor is allowed to use your prior DUI manslaughter conviction to elevate a subsequent DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony charge, AND the prosecutor is allowed to treat the current DUI charge as a strike under California’s Three Strikes law.

People v. Doyle

Felony DUI and the Three Strikes Law
A recent decision regarding felony DUI and the Three Strikes Law will have a huge impact on DUI sentencing.

In 1988, the defendant, Douglas Doyle, was convicted of DUI manslaughter after he struck an ongoing vehicle, killing the other driver in the process. At the time of the crash, the defendant was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and valium. In 2007, the defendant was also convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

In 2008, Mr. Doyle was pulled over by an officer for erratic driving while under the influence of alcohol. The state prosecutor charged the defendant with a felony DUI because of his prior DUI manslaughter conviction. The prosecution also asserted that his most recent DUI was a third strike under California’s Three Strikes law. Doyle was convicted and sentenced to 25-years-to-life in state prison under California’s Three Strikes law.

The California Court of Appeal Ruling and Rationale

The defendant appealed his sentencing and argued that it amounted to an equal protection violation, a due process violation, cruel and unusual punishment, and constituted “impermissible bootstrapping.” The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District rejected all four of the defendant’s arguments and upheld his 25-years-to-life state prison sentence. In rejecting each of the defendant’s arguments, the court attempted to construe the relevant statues in accordance with legislative intent.

The Court concluded that it was NOT “impermissible bootstrapping” to allow the prosecutor to use a prior DUI manslaughter conviction in order to elevate his DUI to a felony and count it as one strike under the Three Strikes law. The court also rejected the defendant’s equal protection claim after concluding that a DUI offender with a prior DUI manslaughter is not similarly situated with a DUI offender with a prior Watson murder conviction. The court concluded that the legislative drafters of the three strikes law clearly intended that the law’s punishment provisions apply in addition to other enhancement provisions.

What Does this Mean for Felony DUI and the Three Strikes Law?

The overwhelming majority of DUI violations are charged as misdemeanors in California under Vehicular Code section 23152. If you are pulled over by the police while driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, you will likely be facing a misdemeanor DUI. However, if another person was injured or killed, you could be facing more severe charges. It is important that you speak with one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich immediately.

If you already have a DUI conviction, and particularly one for DUI manslaughter, a second DUI conviction could result in a very lengthy prison sentence. Under Vehicular Code section 23550.5, if you have a DUI manslaughter conviction, the prosecutor can charge your subsequent DUI as a felony and treat the current DUI charge as a strike. This is extremely important for sentencing. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have the experience to navigate these complicated laws and help you avoid the severe penalties associated with California’s DUI laws.

Call Wallin & Klarich Today

The skilled criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending clients charged with various DUI offenses. If you or a loved one is being charged with drunk driving in Southern California, it is imperative that you contact our law offices immediately. Our attorneys have the experience to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. We will fight for your freedom through every step of the process.

Our offices are located in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, Victorville, Torrance and Sherman Oaks. Give us a call today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245. We will be there when you call.

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