Do Out Of State DUI Convictions Count As Priors For A Kansas DUI Charge?
In Kansas, each DUI convictions a person receives increases the severity of an additional DUI charge. For example, a first DUI is classified as a Class B Nonperson misdemeanor and carries a sentence of two days to six months in jail. When a person receives his or her second DUI, the crime is classified as a Class A nonperson misdemeanor, and the sentence can range from 90 days to one year in jail. When prior DUI convictions are all under Kansas’ DUI law, Section 8-1567, the application of this rule is fairly straightforward. But what about out-of-state DUIs? Below is a brief overview of how out-of-state DUIs work within the Kansas statute.
The United States offers a very unique system of governments working near and over-top-of one another. This generally causes little issue, but occasionally the ability of states to criminalize conduct its own legislator finds dangerous can poses problems. DUI statutes are a prime example of how much freedom each state has: a state could choose to not prohibit driving while intoxicated at all or a state may choose to prohibit driving even after one drink and everything in between. This means that an individual could be convicted of Driving Under the Influence in one state for conduct that isn’t even illegal in another state. The prime example of this can be seen in State v. Stanley.
In Stanley, the defendant was charged with a DUI in Kansas. He had previously been convicted of one DUI in Kansas and DWI in Missouri. The trial court treated both of these convictions as applying under Section 8-1567, resulting in a felony DUI charge and conviction for Stanley. However, the Court of Appeals reversed that decision based upon the conduct that the Missouri statute outlawed. Because the Missouri statute was broader—it criminalized a wider amount of conduct—than the Kansas law, the Missouri conviction could not be used to “bump up” Stanley’s DUI charge. The Missouri statute simply required “any manner” of impairment from alcohol, while Kansas only outlaws intoxication that makes “safely driving a vehicle” impossible. Conduct that violated the law in Missouri may not have violated the law in Kansas, so the court could not consider convictions under that Missouri statute to “bump up” a DUI charge.
There are three important points about when an out-of-state charge fails to apply under Section 8-1567. First, Section 8-1567 must be the broader of the two laws. If conduct would be legal in Kansas but a crime under the out-of-state statute, the conviction cannot apply to “bump up” classification. Second, the court isn’t interested in the details of the conviction. In Stanley, the defendant very well could have been too drunk to safely drive his vehicle when he was arrested and convicted in Missouri. But the court doesn’t want to “re-try” that old charge, so it doesn’t look to exactly what conduct the defendant did to get convicted. Instead, the court only looks at what the law the defendant got convicted under requires at a minimum. Finally, the court has also noted that municipal DUI laws that are broader than Section 8-1567 cannot apply as prior convictions, even though they happen in Kansas. For example, in State v. Wood, the court held that Lenexa’s municipal DUI law (which has since changed) was broader than Section 8-1567. Using the same logic as in Stanley, the court refused to apply that municipal conviction to “bump up” his current DUI charge.
How Can I Determine If A State’s DUI Law Is Broader Than Section 8-1567?
The unfortunate answer to this question is, “you probably can’t.” When courts deal with reading statutes, they are considered to be answering “questions of law.” This means that each time the matter comes before a higher court, the higher court gets to answer the question for itself; it doesn’t care what the lower court has said. Further, unlike questions of fact, it is much harder to predict how a court will answer a question of law. The Stanley court noted that it reached its conclusion by reading multiple decisions of Missouri courts that interpreted that law, and then compared that information to Section 8-1567. This is all very complex work that is open to multiple interpretations, and thus, answers. Currently, only Missouri’s DWI statute and Texas’ DUI statute (decided in State v. Butler) have been addressed, with both being too broad to apply under Section 8-1567.
Determining the effect of an out-of-state conviction on a new DUI charge is a tall order. It involves reading two statutes together from two different states, each with its own system of laws. Trying to correctly determine if the law is too broad to apply or narrow enough to “bump up” a new charge is a dangerous game. It is important to contact experienced legal counsel with the capability of research, comparing, and predicting how the court will read these laws together.