Monday, September 24, 2012
Court of Appeal Approves Retroactive Application of DUI Statute
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Legislation allowing a second-time drunk driving offender to obtain restricted driver’s license under certain circumstances was properly applied to a defendant who committed the crime before the law took effect, but was not sentenced until afterward, the First District Court of Appeal ruled Friday.
The panel affirmed a Marin Superior Court judge’s order compelling the Department of Motor Vehicles to grant Dominique Niki Matteo a restricted driver’s license upon his compliance with Vehicle Code Sec. 13352(a)(3), as amended effective July 1, 2010.
The law permits a driver with a second conviction of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, or with an unlawful blood alcohol level, to apply for a restricted license 90 days into the mandatory one-year suspension. The applicant must enroll in an 18-month DUI program; provide proof of insurance; and install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle.
Matteo was involved in a collision on Feb. 23, 2010 and convicted on July 15 of that year. He also had a 2007 conviction and was sentenced as a second-time offender subject to a one-year suspension.
Matteo asked for a restricted license after 90 days, saying he met all of the requirements. The DMV rejected the application on the ground that the offense predated the statutory amendment, saying it was department policy to apply revised licensing laws only to drivers whose offenses are committed after the revisions take effect.
Marin Superior Court Judge Verna Adams granted Matteo’s petition for writ of mandate, and the DMV appealed.
Justice Martin Jenkins, writing for the Court of Appeal, said Adams was correct.
The case, the justice said, falls under the rule that a “legislative mitigation of the penalty” for a crime is applied retroactively absent specific language to the contrary. This is an exception, Jenkins said, to the general rule that statutes are not given retroactive effect unless the Legislature specifies that retroactivity is intended.
He distinguished Fox v. Alexis (1985) 38 Cal.3d 621, which held that a law mandating a three-year driver’s license revocation to certain DUI offenders could not be applied to those whose offenses preceded the effective date of the law.
The Fox court, Jenkins explained, found that the three-year revocation could not be applied retroactively, absent an expression of legislative intent, because it was a “sanction.”
“Here, to the contrary…the DMV was required to inform Matteo of his right to apply for a restricted license based upon his compliance with the statute’s new procedural requirements,” the justice wrote. “Granting Matteo the right, if he so chooses, to apply for a restricted license after meeting certain preconditions clearly is not a sanction.”
The case is Matteo v. Department of Motor Vehicles, A130542.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company