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Name: People v. Bechtol
Case #: A146680
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 04/12/2017

Vehicle Code section 41403 does not independently authorize ineffective-assistance-of-counsel challenges to prior convictions in a subsequent proceeding. Bechtol was charged with two alcohol-related driving offenses within 10 years of a prior felony driving under the influence (DUI) conviction. (Veh. Code, §§ 23152, subds. (a) & (b), 23550.5.) He moved to strike his earlier felony DUI conviction on the ground that he received ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) in the earlier case. The trial court denied the motion as unauthorized. Bechtol pleaded guilty and was granted a certificate of probable cause. On appeal he argued that he was permitted to challenge his prior conviction on IAC grounds under section 41403, which sets forth detailed procedural rules for proceedings to have certain prior vehicle code convictions declared invalid on constitutional grounds. Held: Affirmed. In People v. Coffey (1967) 67 Cal.2d 204, the California Supreme Court established a rule of procedure authorizing defendants to challenge prior felony convictions on constitutional grounds in a subsequent prosecution. Thereafter, in Garcia v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 953, the court limited this rule and held that a defendant facing an enhancement based on a prior conviction “may not employ the current prosecution as a forum for challenging the validity of the prior conviction based upon alleged ineffective assistance of counsel in the prior proceeding.” Here, Bechtol argued that, despite the holding in Garcia, his IAC-based challenge was independently authorized by section 41403. The court disagreed. Applying principles of statutory interpretation, the court determined that section 41043 does not independently authorize constitutional challenges to prior convictions in subsequent proceedings, but simply sets forth the procedural rules to be used for those challenges that are otherwise authorized. Thus, Bechtol’s IAC-based challenge to his prior conviction is foreclosed by Garcia and the motion to strike his prior conviction on IAC grounds was properly denied.

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