Appeals court rules in DWI date case

Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The Alaska Court of Appeals has shot down a man's argument that he should not be charged with felony drunk driving because his offense occurred before a new state law making his crime a felony went into effect.

Friday's ruling involves the case of Eric B. Fowler, 33, who was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated July 4, 2001.

In an opinion, the three appeals court judges decided the exact date when a driving while intoxicated provision approved by the Legislature in 2001 went into effect. The provision made someone's third DWI within 10 years a felony.

Previously, offenders would be charged with a felony on their third DWI if they had two arrests in the last five years.

At the time of his arrest, Fowler had two prior convictions in the past 10 years, but not within the last five years.

The Legislature passed the DWI provision on May 8. Under Alaska statutes, a new law goes into effect 90 days after the governor signs it unless the Legislature provides a specific effective date.

In this case, the Legislature specified that the DWI provision would go into effect on July 1. However, then-Gov. Tony Knowles did not sign the provision into law until July 3.

Fowler's attorney argued that because the signing came after the July 1 effective date specified by the Legislature, the statute requiring a 90-day waiting period after the governor's approval should be used. Under this argument, the new law would have begun on Oct. 1.

The appeals court judges ruled that the new law went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on July 4. Fowler was arrested about seven hours later.

His attorney also argued that the new law could not have gone into effect on a holiday. However, the judges ruled nothing in state statutes supported this argument and that the Legislature has specified effective dates on holidays in the past.

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