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State v. Blake

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

April 26, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
PAIGE J. BLAKE, Defendant.

          Submitted: March 8, 2019

          Stephen McCloskey, Esquire Deputy Attorney General Attorney for the State of Delaware

          Jonathan Layton, Esquire Gonser and Gonser PA. Attorney for Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SENTENCE AS A FIRST DUI OFFENSE

          Alex J. Smalls, Chief Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion To Be Sentenced As A First Offender Under the Delaware Motor Vehicle Statute 21 Del. C. § 4177(d)(1). This Motion is opposed by the State on the basis that Defendant was convicted in the State of Maryland on March 18, 2015, for an offense of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Defendant was sentenced under the Maryland Probation Before Judgment statute. Therefore, the State argues that this the present conviction under Delaware's driving while under the influence of alcohol statute constitutes a second offense under 21 Del. C. § 4177(d)(2).

         FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 18, 2015, Defendant pled guilty in the District Court of Maryland, Worchester County, to driving while under the influence of alcohol per se (the "Maryland DUI"), and entered a probation before judgment program. Defendant successfully completed the program on September 25, 2015.

         On February 20, 2018, Defendant was charged in this Court with driving under the influence of alcohol and other related offenses.[1] A bench trial was held on October 8, 2018, at the conclusion of which Defendant was found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol (the "Delaware DUI").

         On January 11, 2019, Defendant was scheduled to appear before this Court for sentencing on the Delaware DUI. However, at the request of the parties, sentencing was continued and the parties were afforded opportunity to submit briefing on the issue of whether the Maryland DUI constitutes a first offense for purposes of sentencing. Briefing was completed on March 8, 2019, and the Court took the matter under advisement.

         PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         It is the State's position that the Maryland DUI constitutes a first offense because it falls within the definition of a "prior offense" as set forth in Delaware's driving under the influence statute. As such, the State avers, the conviction on October 8, 2018, constitutes a second offense and Defendant must be sentenced as a second-time offender. Defendant, on the other hand, argues that, under Delaware's probation before judgment statute, the Maryland DUI does not constitute a "previous conviction." Thus, Defendant contends, the Delaware conviction is a first offense under Delaware law and Defendant must be sentenced as a first- time offender.

         DISCUSSION

         The provisions of the Motor Vehicle Code do not provide discretion in the imposition of sentences for DUI offenses.[2] Rather, the statutory scheme set forth in 11 Del. C. § 4177 (the "DUI Statute"), imposes strict, mandatory penalties for offenses, escalating in severity for repeat offenders.[3] This structure provides that a first offense requires a penalty of a fine not less than $500 and/or imprisonment up to a period of 12 months.[4] Thereafter, for a second offense which occurs within 10 years of the first offense, the DUI Statute requires the imposition of a minimum fine of $750 and at least 60 days imprisonment.[5]

         Section 4177B(e)(1) of the DUI Statute sets forth specific categories of offenses which constitute a "prior ...


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