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State Supreme Court Vacates DUI Enhanced by Prior Conviction Obtained in Violation of Sixth Amendment

The Idaho Supreme Court recently vacated a defendant’s DUI conviction because it was enhanced based on a prior conviction obtained in violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

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The State charged Farfan-Galvan with felony DUI on November 3, 2014. The DUI was charged as a felony because Farfan-Galvan had two prior DUI convictions, one from 2008 in Jerome County and one from 2010 in Twin Falls County. Farfan-Galvan moved to dismiss or remand the charge, based upon his claim that one of the 2010 convictions upon which the State relied to enhance the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony was obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion.

On December 29, 2014, Farfan-Galvan entered a conditional guilty plea to felony DUI, preserving his right to appeal the district court’s decision. In an unpublished opinion, the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision.

The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, since the record before the district court did not contain any indication that Farfan-Galvan had waived the right to counsel in the 2010 case. The court reasoned that the district court focused too narrowly on the question of appointment of counsel and ignored the threshold issue of whether the record in the 2010 case reflected a violation of Farfan-Galvan’s right to counsel.

Since the record in the 2010 case was silent as to whether Farfan-Galvan waived his right to counsel, the court found U.S. Supreme Court precedent in Burgett v. Texas to control. In Burgett, the defendant’s attorney objected to the introduction of a certified copy of a judgment of conviction on the ground that the judgment on its face showed that the defendant was not represented by counsel in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and there was no indication in the record that counsel had been waived.

Gideon v. Wainwright established that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel made it unconstitutional to try a defendant for a felony in a state court unless he had a lawyer or had validly waived one. To permit a conviction obtained in violation of Gideon to be used either to support guilt or to enhance a punishment for another offense would “erode the principle of that case” and allow an unconstitutional procedure to harm a defendant twice.

The Idaho Supreme Court concluded that since the record did not contain any indication that Farfan-Galvan had waived the right to counsel in the 2010 case, that conviction could not serve as the basis to enhance the charge to a felony. Thus, the state high court reversed the district court’s decision denying his motion to dismiss or remand, and Farfan-Galvan’s judgment of conviction was vacated.

If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-829-8513.

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Minnesota Supreme Court Holds Warrantless Urine Tests Are Unconstitutional, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, November 1, 2016.

Federal Government Forces Tennessee To Amend DUI Statute, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, October 3, 2016.

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