State v. Barrett

State v. Barrett, 2015 MT 303 (Oct. 20, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Barrett was properly sentenced as a fourth DUI offender when one of his predicate DUIs was reduced in Idaho from a third to a second DUI pursuant to a plea agreement.

Short Answer: Yes.

Affirmed

Facts: Barrett, an Idaho resident, was stopped in Dillon on Jan. 27, 2014, for failing to stop at an intersection. Noting the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, and red eyes, the officer administered field sobriety tests, which Barrett failed. A preliminary breath test revealed a .14 BAC. Barrett was charged with DUI, fourth or subsequent offense, a felony.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Barrett moved to dismiss the felony charge, arguing it was only his third DUI. Concluding Idaho’s labeling of the third conviction as a second offense was immaterial, the district court denied the motion. Barrett pled guilty, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion. He appeals and the Supreme Court affirms. 

Reasoning: In Montana, an offender’s first three convictions for DUI are misdemeanors, after which subsequent convictions are felonies. Convictions include guilty pleas. The Court has previously determined that Montana and Idaho have similar DUI statutes. Barrett stipulated to the fact that he pled guilty on three prior occasions to DUI in Idaho. None of those convictions were expunged, dismissed, or vacated by Idaho. Therefore, in Montana, all subsequent convictions are felonies.