Trial court properly refused to bifurcate felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) from misdemeanor charge of driving with a license suspended for prior DUI convictions. Profitt was charged with felony DUI (Veh. Code, § 23152, subds. (a) & (b)) and three misdemeanor counts related to driving on a license suspended/revoked for prior misdemeanor DUI convictions (Veh. Code, §§ 14601.2, subd. (a), 14601.5, subd. (a), 13353.2). The prior DUI misdemeanors were also charged as sentencing enhancements. At Profitt’s request, the trial court bifurcated trial on the three DUI priors, but refused to bifurcate trial on the misdemeanors, which had prior DUI convictions as elements. Profitt was convicted and appealed. Held: Affirmed. “A not guilty plea puts every element of every charged offense in issue.” The basis of Profitt’s driver’s license suspension is an element of the misdemeanor charges against him. The trial court has broad discretion to control the conduct of criminal trials, including the authority to bifurcate trial issues, such as prior conviction allegations (Pen. Code, § 1044). In People v. Calderon (1994) 9 Cal.4th 69, the court determined that a unitary trial on the charged offense and prior conviction allegations may unduly prejudice a defendant. “When a prior conviction is an element of a charged offense, however, the Supreme Court has not required or condoned bifurcation.” In People v. Valentine (1986) 42 Cal.3d 170, the court determined the state Constitution requires proof “in open court” of the defendant’s ex-felon status when that status is a substantive element of a current charge (Cal. Const., art. I, § 28, subd. (f)). This holding was extended to related charges where a prior conviction was an element of the offense. (People v. Sapp (2003) 31 Cal.4th 240.) Although Valentine and Sapp apply to prior felony convictions that are elements of felony convictions, the same rule applies in this case.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A147278.PDF