Appeals Court (April 6, 2006)
This case serves as a reminder of the distinction between a "conviction" and "admission to sufficient facts" and that the two are not interchangeable but rather separate and distinct dispositions.
The defendant admitted to sufficient facts to the charge of operating under the influence of alcoholic beverages, the case was continued without a finding, and the defendant's license was suspended for 45 days. During the 45 day suspension period, the police stopped the defendant while driving and charged him with operating after suspension (OAS) for OUI. During the trial for OAS/OUI, both the judge and the prosecutor repeatedly referred to the defendant's prior "conviction" for OUI, when in fact the defendant had "admitted to sufficient facts" and the case was continued without a finding.
The court held that the mistake did not constitute reversible error "because the jury could come to the same conclusion regarding the status of the defendant's license regardless of the disposition that led to the suspension." However, the court made clear that a "conviction" and an "admission to sufficient facts" are distinct dispositions and the appropriate term should be used accordingly.