Filed 2/3/10 P. v. Trahan CA4/1
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COURT OF APPEAL, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT
STATE OF CALIFORNIA
THE PEOPLE, D053959
Plaintiff and Respondent,
v. (Super. Ct. No. SCD214244)
DANIEL SCHORN TRAHAN,
Defendant and Appellant.
APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Katherine
A. Bacal, Judge. Affirmed.
A jury convicted Daniel Schorn Trahan of one count of driving under the
influence of alcohol (Veh. Code, § 23152, subd. (a));1 one count of driving with more
than a .08 percent blood alcohol level (§ 23152, subd. (b)); and, with respect to each
1 All further statutory references are to the Vehicle Code.
count, found that Trahan's blood alcohol level was in excess of .15 percent (§ 23578).
After Trahan waived his right to a jury trial on the prior conviction allegations of the
amended information, the court found Trahan had three priors within the preceding 10
years for driving under the influence, including two convictions in Maricopa County,
Arizona, and one in San Diego County. (§§ 23550, subd. (a), 23626.) The trial court
sentenced Trahan to two years eight months in state prison.
On appeal, Trahan's sole contention is that the evidence was insufficient to support
the trial court's finding that he is the individual who suffered the prior Arizona
convictions. We affirm the judgment.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On May 20, 2008, Trahan was driving in San Diego at approximately 2:00 a.m.
when officers on routine patrol observed him swerving and directed him off the highway.
Based on Trahan's red, watery eyes; slurred speech; unsteady gait; alcohol-smelling
breath; and unsatisfactory results of a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the officers arrested
Trahan. Trahan took two breath analyzer tests, three minutes apart, showing blood
alcohol levels of .17 percent and .16 percent. On July 3, 2008, the prosecutor filed a
On August 14, 2008, the prosecutor filed an amended information, charging
Trahan with one count of driving under the influence of alcohol (§ 23152, subd. (a)) and
one count of driving with more than a .08 percent blood alcohol level (§ 23152,
subd. (b)). With respect to both counts, the information alleged that Trahan's blood
alcohol level was in excess of .15 percent (§ 23578) and that Trahan had incurred three
prior convictions within the preceding 10 years for driving under the influence (§ 23550,
subd. (a)). Specifically, the amended information alleged the following prior convictions:
Violation Date of Offense Date of Conviction Docket No./Court
§ 23152, subd. (a) August 25, 2003 July 31, 2006 SCD181346
§ 23550, subd. (a) San Diego County
Aggravated DUI December 17, 2003 March 3, 2004 CR2003-027110
Maricopa County, Arizona
Aggravated DUI March 20, 2003 March 3, 2004 CR2003-032467
Maricopa County, Arizona
Trahan agreed to a bifurcated trial of the information's charges and the alleged
priors. In September 2008 a jury found Trahan guilty of both counts and found true the
enhancement allegation relating to the excess blood alcohol concentration. Trahan then
waived a jury on the prior conviction allegations, and the trial court held a bench trial on
In the bench trial, the court judicially noticed the fact of Trahan's San Diego
conviction, in which he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol, and the
existence of the change of plea form underlying that conviction, in which Trahan
admitted the allegations of the information that he had three prior DUI convictions in
Arizona, including two in 2004 and one in 1996. The prosecution sought to rely upon the
change of plea form as proof of the prior Arizona convictions, but the trial court stated
the change of plea form was insufficient to prove all three prior convictions beyond a
reasonable doubt. The prosecution then presented the testimony and report of a forensic
technician, identifying Trahan's fingerprint records as matching those taken during his
booking in the prior San Diego conviction case. The specialist gave no opinion as to the
thumbprints contained in the records of conviction from the two Arizona cases.
The trial court took judicial notice of additional certified court documents from the
San Diego prior conviction and certified court documents from the two Arizona
convictions. Trahan's counsel argued that the Arizona conviction records were
insufficient to show that Trahan committed the Arizona offenses because the case
numbers in the Arizona conviction records did not match the case numbers listed on
Trahan's San Diego conviction change of plea form.2
After reviewing the judicially noticed records, the trial court found "beyond a
reasonable doubt that the defendant has suffered three or more prior convictions. Those
prior convictions being case No. SCD181346, Maricopa County case
No. CR2003-027110, and Maricopa County Arizona case No. CR2003-032467." The
trial court further stated, "I do note that the change of plea form has a list of priors, and
the dates of conviction do not match exactly with the priors as set forth on People's
2 Specifically, on one of the Arizona convictions, the plea form showed a case
number with one erroneously-added digit and one omitted digit. For the other Arizona
conviction, the plea form erroneously lists the Arizona statute section under which
Trahan was convicted, rather than the case number.
Exhibit 2 and People's Exhibit 3. But I find beyond a reasonable doubt that the identity
and the dates of conviction have been found to be those of the defendant in this case,
Daniel Schorn Trahan." Trahan timely appealed.
Trahan contends the trial court lacked sufficient evidence to find he had suffered
the two prior Arizona convictions for driving under the influence.
A. Standard of Review
We review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence to support prior
conviction findings under the same standard used in determining the sufficiency of the
evidence to support a conviction. (People v. Delgado (2008) 43 Cal.4th 1059, 1067.)
"[T]he court must review the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment
below to determine whether it discloses substantial evidence — that is, evidence which is
reasonable, credible, and of solid value — such that a reasonable trier of fact could find
the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." (People v. Johnson (1980) 26 Cal.3d
557, 578.) To be substantial, the evidence must be " 'of ponderable legal significance . . .
reasonable in nature, credible, and of solid value.' " (Id. at p. 576.)
B. The Record Contains Substantial Evidence Supporting the Trial Court's Findings
That Trahan Suffered the Prior Arizona Convictions
1. Governing law.
"It has long . . . been the rule in California, in the absence of countervailing
evidence, that the identity of [a] person may be presumed, or inferred, from identity of
name." (People v. Mendoza (1986) 183 Cal.App.3d 390, 401; People v. Mason (1969)
269 Cal.App.2d 311, 314 (Mason) [". . . California cases hold that, in the absence of other
and contrary testimony [fn. omitted], the identity of names, coupled with proper proof of
prior convictions, is sufficient to sustain a finding that defendant was the person involved
in the earlier cases."].) In addition to identity of name, courts rely on other types of
evidence to establish the defendant's identity as the individual who suffered a prior
conviction, including evidence that the defendant's birth date is the same as that
contained in a prior conviction record and evidence that a defendant previously resided
near the location of the prior conviction. (People v. Towers (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th
1273, 1286 (Towers); People v. Sberno (1937) 22 Cal.App.2d 392, 398 (Sberno).)
2. Evidence Presented at Trial That Trahan Shared the Same Name, Physical
Characteristics and Birth Date as the Defendant in the Arizona Convictions Is
Sufficient to Support the Trial Court's Prior Conviction Findings.
Trahan contends the evidence presented at trial was insufficient, as a matter of
law, to prove that he was the person who suffered the two prior Arizona convictions.
Although Trahan acknowledges that identity of names can be a sufficient basis for
sustaining a prior conviction finding, he argues that "most of the cases that find sufficient
evidence to prove the defendant is the person who suffered the prior conviction have
relied upon more than what the trial court here deemed sufficient." For two reasons, we
disagree and hold that the evidence relied upon here by the trial court was sufficient to
prove the prior convictions beyond a reasonable doubt.
First, the combination of Trahan's last and middle names is sufficiently uncommon
that the trial court properly could infer, in the absence of any countervailing evidence,
that he was the person who is named in the Arizona conviction records. (See, e.g.,
People v. Sarnblad (1972) 26 Cal.App.3d 801, 805 [rejecting need for photographic or
fingerprint evidence where name "Donald Sarnblad" was sufficiently uncommon for
inference of identity based on the name]; People v. Brucker (1983) 148 Cal.App.3d 230,
242 ["Brucker" sufficiently uncommon to support presumption that defendant "Brucker"
was same as defendant in instant case]; Mason, supra, 269 Cal.App.2d at p. 314.)
Second, the evidence showed that the defendant who suffered each of the Arizona
convictions shared Trahan's birth date, Social Security number and physical
characteristics. (Towers, supra, 150 Cal.App.4th at p. 1286 [birth date, birthplace and
tattoo supported finding defendant was individual who suffered prior convictions].) In
addition, Trahan listed an Arizona address on the change of plea in the prior San Diego
conviction, thus buttressing the trial court's finding Trahan was the defendant who
suffered the prior Arizona convictions. (Sberno, supra, 22 Cal.App.2d at p. 402
[defendant's prior conviction supported by similarity of uncommon name, prior
conviction's location and defendant's admission he had " 'done time' "].)3
In light of the case law cited above, we conclude that the record contains
sufficient evidence to support the court's finding that Trahan suffered the prior
convictions in the Arizona cases.
The judgment is affirmed.
MCCONNELL, P. J.
3 Citing People v. Hall (1980) 28 Cal.3d 143, the Attorney General contends the
change of plea form from the prior San Diego conviction constitutes a conclusive
admission of the prior Arizona convictions, arguing that the prior Arizona convictions
were an element of the offense underlying the prior San Diego conviction. We disagree
and note generally that prior convictions are considered sentencing factors rather than an
element of the crime. (People v. Casillas (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 171, 184, quoting
Thompson v. Superior Court (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 144, 149-150.) We need not address
this issue, however, because as we explain above, we conclude substantial evidence, apart
from the prior San Diego conviction, supports the existence of Trahan's prior Arizona