Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Michigan may consider out-of-state DUI as prior conviction

September 19, 2007

California DUI criminal defense lawyers have previously had the luxury of telling clients that a California DUI conviction may not be considered as a prior drunk driving conviction in Michigan. The Interstate Compact's inapplicability may have had something to do with that. But now, California DUI offenses and out-of-state drunk driving offenses may count in Michigan.

California DUI convictions and out-of-state drunk driving offenses could be considered as prior convictions in Michigan under legislation recently introduced in the state House.

House Bill (HB) 5160, sponsored by Rep. Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion), would allow law enforcement officials to add the out-of-state drunk driving convictions to an offender's prior convictions in order to draw stiffer penalties. If an offender had two drunk driving convictions in Ohio and was pulled over by police for the same thing in Michigan and convicted, the offender would have three drunk driving violations on their Michigan record. Judges and police could also consider those two prior offenses during the investigation and proceedings related to the third offense.

"Let's look at the totality here," said state Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Orchard Lake). "If (a driver) has a drinking problem, we want to know about it. If he's had a whole bunch or priors in Ohio or Tennessee or California, that would be nice to know when you're deciding what to do about him."

Moss is also listed as a co-sponsor on the bill, among many other house members. State Rep. Chris Ward (R-Milford) is one of those members.

"It just makes sense that if you break the law in some other state doing that, it should count here," said Ward's Chief of Staff Frank Raha. "State lines shouldn't be some kind of pass."

Lakes area state Reps. David Law (R-Commerce, West Bloomfield, Wolverine Lake), Fran Amos (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield), John Stakoe (R-Highland, White Lake), and Craig DeRoche (R-Walled Lake, Wixom) are all co-sponsors of the measure, but were unavailable for comment prior to press time.

The language of the bill changes the meaning of "prior conviction" in the state's drunk driving law — Pubic Act (PA) 300 of 1949, known as the "Michigan Vehicle Code" — by changing section 625 (MCL 257.625), as amended in 2006 by PA 564.

The change adds, "a law of the United States substantially corresponding to a law of this state, a law of another state substantially corresponding to a law of this state, or a local ordinance of a political subdivision of another state substantially corresponding to a law of this state" under the prescribed section.

Essentially, any other state's law that prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated meets that requirement, according to Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca, who said he supports the measure.

Gorcyca said it's "absolutely fair" to consider out-of-state offenses as prior convictions to keep Michigan roadways safe.

"Just because the other violations were not abstracted to the Secretary of State, does that mean you should benefit because law enforcement isn't aware of them? I don't think so," he said. "More importantly, this allows us to prevent repeat drunk driving offenders from escaping harsher consequences."

The difference between a first drunk driving offense and, for example, two or three could be anywhere from a 93-day misdemeanor and a restricted driver's license to a five-year felony and a revoked license, according to Gorcyca.

HB 5160 awaits a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

The interstate impact of a California DUI appears to grow.