By Carson Eschen
SANTA BARBARA, CA – Defense Attorney Bill Makler—using a creative argument that, in the end, benefited his clients—argued Monday that the punishments being imposed by the Santa Barbara County Superior Court were “duplicative” and could cause undue hardship for his clients.
The two 20-year-old defendants were each pleading no contest to separate misdemeanors of driving under the influence.
Makler and Deputy District Attorney Sherwin Nadjm were arguing the cases in front of Judge Pauline Maxwell. Under the settlement agreement proposed, the court would suspend their licenses for one year.
However, Makler argued that the court’s suspension would mean that his clients would be unable to get their licenses reinstated for more than a year from their initial suspension.
Given that the DMV suspended the licenses of the defendants back in January and February and that the settlement agreement would have gone into effect Monday, the defendants’ licenses would be suspended for a total of five to six months longer than Makler says the law intends.
“It’s supposed to be one year, even though there are two suspensions,” Makler stated, referring to the separate but parallel suspensions by the DMV and the court.
Makler also expressed concern that the court suspension would “confuse” the DMV. He requested that Judge Maxwell refrain from making a court-ordered suspension.
On the other side, DDA Nadjm argued that the language was clear in what punishment the judge had to hand down, and that having the court simply not address the issue was “probably not the best interpretation.”
Ultimately, Judge Maxwell sided with the DDA, stating that it was her belief that the law imparted an obligation for her to impose a one-year suspension.
However, she agreed to backdate the court suspension to the initial dates of the DMV administrative suspensions. The suspensions will officially have started in January and February.
The different suspensions can be found in California Vehicle Codes sections 13202.5 and 13352. Section 13202.5 says that the court suspends the licenses of people convicted of drunk driving for exactly one year, if they are between the ages of 13 and 21.
Meanwhile, 13352 mandates that the Department of Motor Vehicles suspend the licenses of people who commit the same violation for the same duration.
One of the defendants also faced charges of possession of a controlled substance and driving without a valid license, which were dropped under the agreement.
That same defendant was charged back in August, while the other defendant was charged in November. Their licenses will be eligible for reinstatement on Jan. 11 and Feb. 15, respectively.