An upstate judge called into question his understanding of a drunken-driving statute by imposing what he erroneously called “minimum mandatory fines” for the offenses, an Appellate Division, Third Department, panel has ruled. In People v. Duquette, 104368, the panel ordered Clinton County Judge Kevin Ryan to resentence Bernice Duquette on the fines associated with guilty pleas she entered on two felony driving while intoxicated counts.

Ryan sentenced Duquette to concurrent 1 1/3-to-four-year sentences on the DWI charges. He also imposed what he termed “minimum mandatory fines” of $1,000 on each count. The appeals panel decided Nov. 8 that since there are no minimum mandatory fines for the felony DWI counts under Vehicle and Traffic Law §1192[2][3], Ryan revealed through his description of the fines “the court’s misapprehension that it had no ability to exercise its discretion” in setting fines for the offenses. Citing several cases, including People v. Domin, 284 AD2d 731 (2001), the panel said in its unsigned ruling that it was “improper” to refer to “minimum mandatory” fines and it directed Ryan to resentence Duquette.

The panel did not disturb the $500 fine Ryan levied against Duquette for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, noting that the offense under VTL §511[3][a] does call for a minimum mandatory fine of $500. Duquette also received a 1 1/3-to-four-year concurrent prison sentence on that count. Justices Robert Rose (See Profile), John Lahtinen (See Profile), Edward Spain (See Profile), William McCarthy (See Profile) and John Egan Jr. (See Profile) sat on the panel.