Prior DUI Convictions Cannot Elevate Current DUI to a Felony
California v. Morgan Docket: D080016 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: January 20, 2023. In 1981, defendant Richard Morgan was convicted of vehicular manslaughter caused by unlawful exhibition of speed and DUI, neither of which was listed as a qualifying prior for elevating a DUI to a felony under California Vehicle Code section 23550.5 (b). The sole question presented in this appeal was whether Morgan’s nonqualifying 1981 convictions could be treated together as if they were a qualifying prior conviction for violating Penal Code section 191.5 (a), even though the latter statute was not enacted until five years later. After deciding that they could be, the trial court sentenced Morgan’s current DUI convictions as felonies. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred by treating Morgan as if he had previously been convicted of violating a Penal Code provision that was not yet in existence at the time of his 1981 convictions. "Without legislative authorization, we cannot expand the statute by judicial fiat to authorize courts to cobble together the elements of older California convictions and treat them as if they were a violation of a Penal Code provision that was not enacted until years later." Accordingly, the Court vacated Morgan’s sentence and remanded the matter for resentencing.
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