California Court of Appeals, First District, Third Division
Sonoma County Superior Court No. SCR647251, Robert M. LaForge.
Jill R. Ravitch, District Attorney, and William S. Mount, Deputy District Attorney for Plaintiff and Appellant.
Marylou Hillberg, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Respondents.
Does a juvenile adjudication qualify as a “prior violation... that was punished as a felony” so as to elevate a misdemeanor driving under the influence (DUI) offense to a felony under Vehicle Code former section 23550.5?  It does not. The trial court properly rejected the People’s attempt to elevate a drunk driving charge with a prior juvenile adjudication pursuant to former section 23550.5, subdivision (a)(2), so we affirm.
In 2006, when Mercedes Lopes was 17 years old, she entered a plea of no contest to felony driving under the influence with injury under section 23153, subdivision (a). Lopes was detained as a ward of the court and committed to a DUI youth program with a maximum time of confinement of 38 months.
In 2014, Lopes was charged with driving under the influence (§ 23152, subd. (a)) and driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more (§ 23152, subd. (b)). Both charges were alleged as felonies pursuant to former section 23550.5 due to the prior juvenile adjudication. After waiving jury trial, Lopes admitted the 2006 adjudication but moved for acquittal on the former section 23550.5 allegation. The court ruled that her juvenile adjudication could not be used to elevate the DUI to a felony and therefore granted the defense motion. Lopes then entered a plea of no contest to misdemeanor violations of section 23152, subdivisions (a) and (b). The People appeal from the court’s order striking the allegation of felony drunk driving due to the prior juvenile adjudication.
The sole issue in this appeal is whether Lopes's 2006 juvenile adjudication qualifies as a “prior violation of Section 23153 that was punished as a felony” within the meaning of former section 23550.5, subdivision (a), and can therefore elevate her current DUI charges to ...