Washington Legal Roundup – Division I
Colleen Anderson was convicted of driving while license invalidated in the first degree (DWLS 1). Because she had had 4 prior DWLS 1 convictions, she was sentenced to a 180 day term of imprisonment under RCW 46.20.342. She argued that because more than 7 years had passed since previous convictions, they should not have counted in determining whether she was a repeat offender. This is what the driving under the influence statute provides. She also requested that she be permitted to serve her sentence on electronic home monitoring (EHM). The trial court denied both requests.
The Court of Appeals determined that the statute was ambiguous with regard to whether Ms. Anderson could serve her sentence on EHM and that the rule of lenity (i.e., ambiguity of a criminal statute is resolved in favor of the defendant) required that she be allowed to do so. The Court of Appeals held, however, that the statute did not have any temporal restriction on prior convictions being considered.
Note to self: It seems a bit backwards, but apparently getting convicted for driving with a suspended license is worse than getting convicted for drunk driving. At least the latter disappears from calculating your sentence as a repeat offender at some point.