Huntington Beach DUI Attorney Explains The Law of Bifurcation of Priors

In California, a DUI prior is named in the complaint that the jury will hear if the case goes to trial.  So what can be done to eliminate the possible prejudice to the accused if the prior is brought out during trial?  If a separate conviction is not stricken before the trial and the issue of its truth goes to trial, the defendant is entitled to request that the issue be bifurcated from the issue of guilt on the substantive DUI offense, whether in Huntington Beach or elsewhere.  Bifurcation is a term used to describe the act of keeping the prior out of jury view until the trial for guilt on the DUI has concluded.  Indeed, bifurcation of prior drunk driving convictions is discretionary by judges but should be granted when the accused in a DWI case will be unduly prejudiced if bifurcation is not granted. See the California case of People v Calderon (1994) 9 C4th 69.   According to a well respected Huntington Beach DUI Attorney, the main situation in which denial of bifurcation would not result in prejudice is when the jury will learn of the prior conviction anyway.  Factually specific considerations that affect the potential for prejudice include the degree to which the prior offense is similar to the charged offense, how recently the prior conviction occurred, and the relative seriousness or inflammatory nature of the prior conviction as compared with the charged offense.

If it appears likely that admission of the DUI evidence of the prior conviction would unduly prejudice the defendant, the court should consider whether this potential for prejudice will be lessened for some reason, such as because evidence that the defendant has committed one or more uncharged criminal offenses will be admitted for purposes other than sentence enhancement. The risk of possible unjust conviction and undue prejudice posed by the admission of evidence of a prior conviction, considered against the minimal inconvenience generally caused by bifurcating the trial, frequently will militate in favor of granting the defendant’s timely request for bifurcation. The huntington beach court may conditionally grant the DUI defendant’s bifurcation motion and reconsider this ruling at the close of the Huntington Beach District Attorneys case in chief and again at the close of the defense case, in light of subsequent developments in the proceedings.

Matthew Ruff is an experienced DUI Attorney in Southern California.  He can be reached during business hours toll-free at 1-877-212-2090 or at his website

5 Responses to Huntington Beach DUI Attorney Explains The Law of Bifurcation of Priors

  1. Tom says:

    very good lawyer from Huntington Beach in Orange County as well. He got me out of jail time on my dui. Whew! 🙂

  2. Tom says:

    I know a retired HB officer and current defense attorney dealing with DUIs and prior convictions has a great success rate in these cases… He helped my brother, life saver!

  3. Tom says:

    great DUI lawyer as well. He got me out of jail time.

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