Foundation requirements for prior convictions in DWI

A recent Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District opinion shows the importance of prosecutors laying a proper evidentiary foundation to introduce evidence of prior convictions in driving while intoxicated cases.


In the case of State v. Gary Lee Pylypczuk, following a jury trial in the circuit court of Clay County, Mr. Pylypczuk appealed his conviction of driving while intoxicated.  The DWI was in violation of § 577.010. Pylypczuk argued that the circuit court improperly admitted evidence of his status as a persistent intoxication-related traffic offender because the evidence was not properly authenticated.


The court reversed the sentence imposed by the Court and remanded the case for jury sentencing.


In its holding, the Appellate Court stated that Section 577.023 does not allow records from the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System’s Driving While Intoxicated Tracking System (DWITS) to be admitted to prove a prior conviction in the absence of any foundation.


The Appellate Court went on to hold that the State failed to lay an adequate foundation to support admission of evidence of Pylypczuk’s prior convictions, and that without evidence of prior convictions, Pylypczuk could not be sentenced as a persistent intoxication-related traffic offender.


The Appellate Court stated in its opinion: “Because Exhibit 2 lacked adequate authentication, it was not admissible and the circuit court erred in admitting it. Furthermore, because Exhibit 2 was used to establish one of the two convictions rendering Pylypczuk a persistent offender, he was prejudiced by the erroneous admission. We, therefore, reverse the finding of the circuit court that Pylypczuk is a persistent offender and the resulting sentence and remand for jury sentencing as a class B misdemeanor offender.”


The Special Division Judges were Zel M. Fischer, Special Judge, Presiding, and Karen King

Mitchell and Cynthia L. Martin. Judge King Mitchell wrote the opinion.

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