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Tyler v. State
Alaska Court of Appeals
47 P.3d 1095 (2001)
David Tyler pled no contest to two charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI). In Alaska, when a defendant had two prior convictions for DWI, the third conviction qualified as a felony. Lawyer Eugene Cyrus (defendant) represented Tyler in a third DWI charge that ended in a conviction for felony DWI. Tyler appealed. On appeal, the state (plaintiff) argued that if Tyler withdrew the two no-contest pleas and the state convicted Tyler of those two DWIs, those two convictions would be classified as prior convictions, so that Tyler could be charged with a felony DWI for the third charge. Cyrus argued that the two re-convictions would be classified as new convictions, so Tyler would be a first-time offender and the third DWI would be a misdemeanor. Neither the prosecutor nor Cyrus disclosed to the appellate court the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision in McGhee v. State. In that case, Cyrus represented McGhee in a charge for a third DWI, and McGhee’s driver’s license was revoked by administrative decision. McGhee withdrew a previous DWI plea and then was re-convicted. The court decided that the re-conviction was not a new offense but a prior conviction, so McGhee’s third charge qualified as a felony. The McGhee decision was the only case in Alaska concerning this issue; the Tyler prosecutor did not disclose the decision because he was not aware of it. After dismissing Tyler’s appeal, the court ordered Cyrus to show cause why the court should not sanction him for failing to disclose McGhee. Alaska Professional Conduct Rule 3.3(a)(3) (APCR 3.3(a)(3)) stated that if an attorney knows that there is “legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction,” the attorney must disclose the authority if opposing counsel has not disclosed it and the authority is “directly adverse” to the client’s position. Cyrus argued that he did not disclose the McGhee case because reasonable judges and attorneys disagreed whether McGhee was controlling authority, and thus APCR 3.3(a)(3) did not apply.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Mannheimer, J.)
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