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State v. Leonard

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Kent

May 16, 2018

STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
v.
JEFFREY LEONARD

          For Plaintiff: John E. Sullivan, III, Esq.

          For Defendant: Daniel P. Connors, Esq.

          DECISION

          PROCACCINI, J.

         Before this Court is Jeffrey Leonard's (Leonard) appeal of a Superior Court Magistrate's (the Magistrate) decision finding that there was no "defect" in the Criminal Information (the Information) charging Leonard with violating G.L. 1956 § 31-27-2(d)(3)(i). Leonard asserts that the Information is "defective" because the language of the statute illustrates that he cannot be in violation of it. Jurisdiction is pursuant G.L. 1956 § 8-2-11.1(d).

         I. Facts and Travel

         On October 4, 2012, the State of Rhode Island (the State) charged Leonard with violating § 31-27-2-the driving under the influence (DUI) statute. Leonard pled guilty to this charge on October 18, 2012. Less than a year later, on May 23, 2013, the State charged Leonard with a second DUI offense. Leonard pled guilty to this charge on July 11, 2013. On September 1, 2017, the Rhode Island State Police stopped Leonard for a third DUI offense. As a result of this third offense, the State filed the Information on December 1, 2017 charging Leonard with being in violation of § 31-27-2(d)(3)(i)[1]. Before the Magistrate on January 12, 2018, Leonard objected to the Information. He claimed that he could not be in violation of § 31-27-2(d)(3)(i) because it required three convictions within a five-year period, and, even if he was convicted on that day of the September 1, 2017 offense, he would not have three convictions within a five-year period. The Magistrate denied Leonard's objection, finding that Leonard fell within the statute's coverage.[2] Leonard appealed the Magistrate's decision to this Court.

         II. Standard of Review

         A Superior Court justice's review of a decision of a magistrate is governed by § 8-2-11.1(d). Section 8-2-11.1(d) states, in pertinent part:

"A party aggrieved by an order entered by the . . . magistrate shall be entitled to a review of the order by a justice of the superior court. Unless otherwise provided in the rules of procedure of the court, the review shall be on the record and appellate in nature. The court shall, by rules of procedure, establish procedures for review of orders entered by the . . . magistrate, and for enforcement of contempt adjudications of the . . . magistrate." Sec. 8-2-11.1(d).

         Presently, Rule 2.9(h) of the Superior Court Rules of Practice governs this Court's review of the Magistrate's decision. The rule states:

"The Superior Court justice shall make a de novo determination of those portions to which the appeal is directed and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the judgment, order, or decree of the magistrate. The justice, however, need not formally conduct a new hearing and may consider the record developed before the magistrate, making his or her own determination based on that record whether there is competent evidence upon which the magistrate's judgment, order, or decree rests. The justice may also receive further evidence, recall witnesses or recommit the matter with instructions." R.P. 2.9(h).

         This Court "shall not substitute [its] view of the evidence for [the Magistrate's] even though a contrary conclusion could have been reached, " if the record illustrates that competent evidence supports the Magistrate's findings. State v. Dennis, 29 A.3d 445, 450 (R.I. 2011) (citation omitted). The record, for purposes of the appeal, includes "[t]he original papers and exhibits filed with the Superior Court, the transcript of the proceedings, and the docket entries[.]" R.P. 2.9(f).

         III. Analysis

         Leonard argues that he cannot be in violation of § 31-27-2(d)(3)(i) because it requires three DUI convictions within a five-year period. Specifically, Leonard argues that even if he were to be convicted of the September 1, 2017 DUI offense today, he would not have three DUI convictions within a five-year period.[3] Consequently, Leonard also argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the September 1, 2017 DUI offense because it would only be a misdemeanor. The State argues that Leonard is in violation of ยง 31-27-2(d)(3)(i) because it requires only a third DUI violation to occur within five years of the first DUI conviction, not three DUI convictions within a five-year period. The State contends that requiring three convictions ...


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