Under our legal system, each state can decide how it will define drunk driving and they do not have to be the same as any other state. This has led to states having different names for drunk driving (DUI, DWI, DWAI, etc.) and different blood alcohol levels set out in their laws that will constitute drunk driving. These differences can lead to problems when one state wants to use the evidence of a conviction for drunk driving in a different state in order to “enhance” the sentencing for a subsequent drunk driving conviction in their state, but the other state has a different definition of drunk driving that would not have constituted drunk driving in their state.
If your current state wants to use your DUI conviction from another state to increase your penalties, the prior states’ DUI definitions must be similar to your current state. However, if your current state just wants to use your DUI in a prior state for drivers license revocation purposes, the similarities are not as crucial. This is true especially if the prior state and your current state have entered into an agreement of reciprocity on drivers licenses and infractions, which many have.
Out-of-State DUI Convictions and Penalties
Many states have adopted rules that allow them to increase the penalty for a DUI under certain circumstances. Usually, the first DUI is a misdemeanor. Sometimes the second or third DUI is raised to a felony. This is where your current state would use a DUI conviction in a prior state raise the penalty for a current DUI in your new state. However if the prior states DUI law does not qualify as a DUI in your current state, they may not be able to use it to increase the penalty. This can mean the difference between a misdemeanor and felony and the different level of punishment that goes with those charges. In other words, it is important that you or your attorney look closely at both states DUI laws if you are in this situation. Call us if you need to talk to an experienced DUI defense lawyer.
This analysis begins with the premise that most states believe they can use convictions in other states to increase penalties in their state. However, there are limitations to this. As stated above a close review of the out of state DUI elements as well as the current state DUI laws is very important. If the laws are not “substantially similar” too each other it may be possible to argue the out of state conviction can not be used. The question becomes what “degree of similarity” is required to allow the use. Each state will have its own rules and case law where they try to define what degree of similarity is required. Once again an experienced attorney can help you with this.
Similarities can be found in each states’ laws on the level of “intent” required; as well as how “intoxication” is defined and generally how the two states’ laws align. In order to avoid the higher penalty you will be required to convince the judge that the two states’ laws are substantially different. This will be easier if one state has added requirements or definitions to their DUI law that the other state does not have. It might be possible to argue to some states that the DUI in the other state is “too old” to be used. What constitutes “too old” is another question that will depend on the current states law if they have limitations periods that apply or if their rules allow you to argue that while some will not.
This may not be an easy exercise, but it will be worth it if you can avoid getting a higher penalty. However, if you do not raise this argument in a timely fashion, you may waive your right to bring it up later. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help with the process.
Out-of-State Convictions and Drivers License Suspensions
Whenever you get a DUI there are always two parts to the process. First there is the criminal charges for Driving under the Influence of drugs or alcohol. The second and separate part deals with your driving privileges and your license. The criminal charges are handled by the courts. The drivers license revocation is handled by the Motor Vehicle department.
With regard to your drivers license the rules are much less strict than in court. Also, most states have entered into the Interstate Driver’s License Compact. This lets the Motor Vehicle department use a DUI conviction in another state that is a signatory to the Compact as evidence in their license revocation proceeding. Even if you don’t get a DUI in your current state of residence but get one in another state and both states are members of the compact your current state can revoke your drivers license for getting the DUI in the other state.
In the case of drivers license revocations, there is no “substantially similar” rule. You still may have some appeal rights with regard to your drivers license, so it is important that you talk to an attorney experienced in these matters.
DUI convictions can cause great disruptions in your life. Having it enhanced to a felony or other penalties can make things even worse. Before accepting a plea bargain for any DUI offense that is enhanced with an out-of-state DUI conviction, or losing your license, you should talk to an experienced attorney. If we can help you with a free initial consultation, please give us a call at (720) 457-4959. www.familylawattorneyindenver.com