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Name: People v. Doyle
Case #: C067741
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/29/2013

Prior conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (DUI manslaughter) may be used both to elevate a defendant’s current DUI to a felony and as a strike prior. Doyle was previously convicted of DUI manslaughter pursuant to Penal Code section 191.5, subdivision (a). His current DUI offense was elevated to a felony based on the DUI manslaughter prior. In addition, the same prior was used as one of two strikes, resulting in a 25-year-to-life sentence. Doyle challenged the multiple use of his prior on statutory and constitutional grounds. Held: Affirmed. Under Vehicle Code section 23550.5, a current DUI may be charged as a felony when the defendant has a prior DUI manslaughter, which is also a serious felony under the strikes law. Upon examining the relevant statutes, the court found no evidence the Legislature intended to preclude use of a prior DUI manslaughter to both elevate a current DUI to a felony and as a strike. Section 667, subdivision (e) states that the Three Strikes law applies in addition to any other punishment or applicable enhancements. This is consistent with the stated goals of the Three Strikes law—to ensure longer prison terms for repeat offenders.

Dual use of Doyle’s DUI manslaughter did not constitute “impermissible bootstrapping.” Relying on language in People v. Briceno (2004) 34 Cal.4th 451, Doyle claimed the trial court engaged in “impermissible bootstrapping” by using his DUI manslaughter prior to elevate his current DUI to a felony and as a strike. But Briceno was evaluating voter intent in an unrelated Proposition 21 context; there is no abstract anti-bootstrapping principle, it is a question of legislative or voter intent.

Doyle’s Three Strikes sentence does not violate equal protection. Doyle asserted a constitutional violation because his sentence was harsher than would be applied to other offenders who are convicted of misdemeanors for a current DUI, despite having more egregious priors, such as murder. Generally, offenders who commit different crimes are not considered to be similarly situated for purposes of an equal protection analysis. No exception to that general rule applies here; there is a rational basis for the Legislature’s distinctions regarding punishment. This finding also resolves Doyle’s due process claim.

Doyle’s punishment is not cruel and unusual. Punishing a lesser included offense more harshly than the greater offense is considered unusual punishment under the state Constitution. (People v. Schueren (1973) 10 Cal.3d 553.) Doyle claimed his punishment is illegal because he is subjected to a Three Strikes sentence while a DUI defendant with a prior DUI implied malice murder is not. But DUI manslaughter is not an LIO of implied malice DUI murder, which carries a more severe initial sentence than DUI manslaughter. The fact that Doyle, having a current DUI with DUI manslaughter prior, received 25 years to life does not render his sentence cruel and unusual.