Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OWI Law - Wisconsin OKs Attack on Prior Convictions to Beat Felony Charges

In State of Wisconsin v. Decorah, Slip Copy, 2011 WL 6090109 (Wis.App.), the defendant was arrested for his fifth OWI offense. Decorah collaterally attacked a prior OWI conviction, alleging that he did not validly waive his right to counsel in that prior case. In particular, Decorah contended that he did not validly waive his right to counsel in his second OWI case because he did not know the applicable range of penalties when waiving counsel. After a hearing, the circuit court agreed that Decorah did not validly waive his right to counsel in the second OWI case. He was sentenced instead as a 4th offender and then the State appealed. Referring to previous caselaw the court affirmed:

"In Ernst, the supreme court explained that, in the context of sentencing based on prior convictions, a collateral attack may be based on a defendant's having not known or understood information that should have been provided when waiving the right to counsel in the prior proceeding:

[To collaterally attack,] the defendant must make a prima facie showing that his or her constitutional right to counsel in a prior proceeding was violated.... For there to be a valid collateral attack, we require the defendant to point to facts that demonstrate that he or she “ did not know or understand the information which should have been provided ” in the previous proceeding and, thus, did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his or her right to counsel.

 Id., ¶ 25 (emphasis added). As pointed out in Ernst, the constitutionally required information is set out in Iowa v. Tovar, 541 U.S. 77, 81 (2004). See Ernst, 283 Wis.2d 300, ¶ 15. Tovar explains that a waiver of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is valid “ ‘when the trial court informs the accused of the nature of the charges against him, of his right to be counseled regarding his plea, and of the range of allowable punishments attendant upon the entry of a guilty plea.’ “ See Ernst, 283 Wis.2d 300, ¶ 15 (quoting Tovar, 541 U.S. at 81). Thus, Ernst, contrary to the State's position, teaches that not knowing or understanding the range of punishments is a basis for a collateral attack because it results in an invalid waiver of counsel."

Editor's Note: Even with a waiver of counsel, a prior conviction might be subject to attack for the reasons stated above.

Looking for a Top DUI DWI Attorney? Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!

No comments:

Blog Archive