Can a crime committed in 2005 be considered a "prior offense" to one committed four years earlier? The Seattle City Attorney's office thought so, but lost. Then won on appeal. And today, lost again in the state Supreme Court.
Two drunk drivers, Scott Winebrenner and Jesus Quezada, were separately convicted in 2001 and 2002 and received deferred prosecutions in Municipal Court. They were separately arrested again for DUI in 2005.
During sentencings related to those violations, their earlier deferred prosecutions were revoked. The city therein asked the court to consider the 2005 offenses as prior convictions for purposes of lengthening the terms for the 2001 violations. The court said no way. By the time the combined cases got to the high court, the Superior and Appeals courts had said way.
If that sounds confusing and contradictory, then it must be law. Because now it's the other way. Again.
"In a somewhat analogous case," Justice Tom Chambers writes today, "this court has determined that a sentencing scheme that would allow two convictions that occurred at different times to be treated as prior to each other would be 'illogical.'" Still, there are provisions under law that allow for interpreting later violations as if they were prior violations. So let's just clear that up, Chambers effectively said.
"Because the legislature failed to specify whether prior offenses included offenses that occurred both before and after the defendant is sentenced on a deferred prosecution, we find the statute is ambiguous, apply the rule of lenity, and construe the statute in favor of the petitioners. Offenses that occur after the current offense must not be considered 'prior offenses' for purposes of sentencing for DUI."
The two petitioners, by the way, have at least five DUI arrests between them. Not good, but then no comparison to the state's DUI King Robert Castle, with at least 16 convictions when we last checked.