Pennsylvania Supreme Court Addresses DUI Lookback Period
In Pennsylvania, the sentences and collateral consequences for a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction are enhanced when an individual has prior DUI convictions within the past ten years. In Commonwealth v. Mock, No. 68 MAP 2018, 2019 WL 6139414 (Pa. Nov. 20, 2019), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed whether the ten (10) year lookback period for DUI cases runs from the occurrence date of the present offense to the occurrence date of the earlier offense(s) or whether it runs from the occurrence date of the present offense to the conviction date of the earlier offense. In analyzing the issue, the Supreme Court reviewed the statutory language which provides that a “prior offense . . . shall mean any conviction for which judgment of sentence has been imposed, adjudication of delinquency, juvenile consent decree, acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition [ARD] or other form of preliminary disposition before the sentencing on the present violation . . .” for a DUI offense. 75 Pa.C.S. Section 3806(a). The statute further reads that a “prior offense must have occurred: (i) within 10 years prior to the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced; or (ii) on or after the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.” 75 Pa.C.S. Section 3806(b).
The Defendant in the Mock case argued that prior precedent, specifically, Commonwealth v. Haag, 981 A.2d 902 (Pa. 2009) requires that the lookback period run from the commission date of the present offense to the occurrence date of the prior offense. The Supreme Court first looked at the plain language of the statute and determined that the language was not ambiguous. Specifically, the Court opined that subsection (a) of the statute unequivocally states that the ten-year lookback period runs from the occurrence date of the present offense to the conviction date of the earlier offense. The Court also reviewed legislative history and noted that the statute had been changed twice since the Haag decision and that the statute had always been interpreted such that the lookback period ran from the date of the current DUI offense to the conviction date of any earlier DUI offenses.
The Mock decision has provided significant clarity for individuals who have committed a second or subsequent DUI concerning whether they will face enhanced penalties for their current DUI offense. The lookback period is now clearly defined such that trial judges will not be left to decide whether the period runs from the occurrence date of a prior offense or from a prior conviction date.