Motorist’s felony DUI charge upheld

GEORGETOWN — A ruling last week upheld a DUI charge’s change from a misdemeanor to multiple offense felony following an initial resolution in the wrong jurisdiction that was vacated.

Since two DUI convictions were not initially disclosed in Jaclyn Munce’s 2018 case in Justice of the Peace Court, the matter was thus transferred to Superior Court based on a new felony charge.

Ms. Munce appealed the decision on Feb. 5, unsuccessfully citing case law in an attempt to uphold the first offense plea she entered on July 27, 2018 in JP 14 Court in Georgetown. A $500 fine was ordered, along with a period of probation.

“Why information about the prior offenses was not known at an early time or, in particular, at the time the plea was entered and the sentence imposed is unknown,” Superior Court Judge Craig A. Karsnitz wrote in an eight-page order issued Friday.

On Nov. 28, 2018, JP Court granted the State of Delaware’s motion to vacate the plea and sentence, noting that it had no jurisdiction in the case.

Ms. Munce then petitioned Superior Court to overturn JP Court’s dismissal and accept the previous first offense DUI conviction.

According to the order, “There is an element of this case that reeks for lack of finality.

“(Ms. Munce) did as the Court and State required of her, was sentenced and proceeded on with her life. On the other hand, (Ms. Munce), and perhaps no one else at the time of her sentencing, knew that she had offended on two prior occasions.”

A previous Delaware case was cited and a judge at the time determined that “The solution … is not to grant a windfall escape to a defendant who seems to have an alarming habit of driving drunk.”

The Court also cited other case law to support its decision.

The State’s statute focused on the serious implications of driving after consuming alcohol, not the Munce case, and Judge Karsnitz reasoned “However, in my opinion, the clear intent of the statute is to ensure that multiple offenders are dealt with more stringently, and with a third (or more) strike, with felony charges.”

While Ms. Munce also questioned whether double jeopardy violated the state and federal constitutions, her “counsel properly conceded that a determination by a court without jurisdiction does not implicate the constitutional provisions in (Delaware Code).”

Attorney Stephen W. Welch represented Ms. Munce, with Deputy Attorney General Caroline C. Brittingham arguing for the State.


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