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State v. Olson

Supreme Court of Montana

May 2, 2017

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
PAUL JULIUS OLSON, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: March 29, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Nineteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Lincoln, Cause No. DC 14-50 Honorable James B. Wheelis, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Scott G. Hilderman, Attorney at Law, Kalispell, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, C. Mark Fowler, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Bernard G. Cassidy, Lincoln County Attorney, Jeffrey Zwang, Deputy County Attorney, Libby, Montana

          Jim Rice Justice

         ¶1 Appellant, Paul Julius Olson (Olson), appeals the order of the Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County, which determined that Olson's Texas convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) constituted prior convictions for purposes of sentencing for his current Montana DUI conviction. We affirm and address the following issue:

         ¶2 Did the District Court err by determining that Olson's Texas DUI convictions were sufficiently similar to constitute prior convictions under § 61-8-734(1)(a), MCA?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 On June 12, 2014, Olson was arrested for DUI by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department after he was observed weaving in traffic and subsequently failed a field sobriety test. A draw of Olson's blood produced a blood alcohol concentration reading (BAC) of 0.257. Olson was charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Fourth or Subsequent Offense, in violation of §§ 61-8-401, 61-8-731, MCA.

         ¶4 Olson pled guilty to the DUI but challenged the use of his prior DUI convictions. Olson had four prior DUIs in three states during his lifetime: Georgia (1999), Montana (2000), Texas (2005), and Texas (2007). Olson objected to the use of his Georgia and Texas convictions, arguing that he was convicted in those states under a lower standard than Montana law. The District Court disagreed, concluding that, at a minimum, the two Texas DUI convictions were obtained under statutes similar to Montana's statutes, resulting in the present conviction being Olson's fourth offense for purposes of sentencing. The District Court did not address Olson's Georgia DUI conviction.

         ¶5 Olson appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6 Whether a prior conviction may be used to enhance a criminal sentence is a question of law that we review for correctness. State v. Krebs, 2016 MT 288, ¶ 7, 385 Mont. 328, 384 P.3d 98 (citing State v. Burns, 2011 MT 167, ¶ 17, 361 Mont. 191, 256 P.3d ...


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