Submitted: February 5, 2019
the State of Delaware's Motion to Dismiss Defendant's
Petition for Writ of Certiorari.
Stephen W. Welch, Esquire, Law Office of Edward C Gill, P.A.,
Georgetown, Delaware, Attorney for Petitioner/Defendant.
Caroline C. Brittingham, Esquire, Delaware Department of
Justice, Georgetown, Delaware, Attorney for the State of
of the Proceedings
Defendant Jacyln Munce filed a petition for Writ of
Certiorari asking this Court to review a judgment of the
Justice of the Peace Court ("JP Court")- That
judgment vacated Defendant's plea and sentence to a
misdemeanor first offense charge of driving under the
influence. The JP Court's decision allowed the State of
Delaware ("State") to indict Defendant on the more
serious charge of felony third offense driving under the
influence. Defendant seeks to have the Order set aside.
case proves the vitality of Murphy's Law. Defendant was
arrested on July 9, 2018, and charged with driving under the
influence pursuant to 11 Del. C. §4177(a) and
another minor offense. She was scheduled to be arraigned in
JP Court on July 27, 2018. At her arraignment, Defendant pled
guilty to the charge as a first offense and was sentenced to
a period of supervised probation and a $500.00 fine. Eighteen
days later, the State filed a motion entitled "Motion to
Correct Illegal Sentence" with JP Court. The motion was
treated as a motion to vacate Defendant's sentence. The
motion asserted that the defendant had two prior convictions
that would qualify as "prior offenses,
" triggering the enhanced penalties of
21 Del. C. §4177(d)(3). Why information about
the prior offenses was not known at an early time or, in
particular, at the time the plea was entered and the sentence
imposed is unknown.
parties submitted legal authorities to JP Court and a hearing
was held following which the parties made further written
submissions to the Court. On November 28, 2018, the Justice
of the Peace Court issued a decision granting the State's
motion to vacate the plea and sentence. The Court determined
it had no jurisdiction to hear the case against
State's argument was straight forward. Section
4177(d)(3)-(9) of Title 21 elevates any driving under the
influence charge that is a third offense or more to a felony
and, therefore, any such charge falls outside the subject
matter jurisdiction of JP Court. Specifically, 21 Del.
The Court of Common Pleas and Justice of the Peace Courts
shall not have jurisdiction over offenses which must be
sentenced pursuant to paragraph (d)(3), (d)(4), (d)(5),
(d)(6), (d)(7), (d)(8) or (d)(9) of this section.
to the State, the entire processing of the case against
defendant was void ab initio and the guilty plea and
sentence were property vacated.
State now has indicted defendant in Superior Court for felony
driving under the influence. In response, Defendant has filed
a petition for Writ of Certiorari asking this Court to enter
an order requiring JP Court to vacate its November 28, 2018
order, and restore Defendant's original conviction of
first offense driving under the influence. Of course, to
Defendant the action is critical. If the requested relief is
granted, she will suffer the more modest penalties associated
with first offender status. If the relief is not given, and
she either ...