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Court of Appeal, Sixth District, California.

IN RE: JONATHAN O., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. JONATHAN O., Defendant and Appellant.

No. H009765.

Decided: December 30, 1992

Theresa R. Owens, San Francisco, Through the Appointment of Sixth Dist. Appellate Program, for defendant and appellant. Daniel E. Lungren, Atty. Gen., George Williamson, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Ronald A. Bass, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Ronald E. Niver, Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen., David H. Rose, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

Jonathan O. appeals from a two-year revocation of his driving privilege pursuant to Vehicle Code section 13202.1  Section 13202 provides for the suspension or revocation for up to three years of the driving privilege of “any person” who is convicted of certain controlled substances offenses in which the use of a motor vehicle is incidental to the commission of the offense.

Appellant contends that the trial court should have applied section 13202.5, which mandates a one-year license suspension for offenders who are 13 or older, but who are under 21 years of age.   We agree and reverse.


On March 24, 1992, in Santa Clara County Juvenile Court, 17–year–old appellant admitted charges of possession of burglary tools (Pen.Code, § 466);  possession of a dirk (Pen.Code, § 12020, subd. (a));  and possession for sale of marijuana (Health & Saf.Code, § 11359).   He was committed to juvenile rehabilitation facilities for three years and eight months.   Because the marijuana was hidden in appellant's car, his driving privilege was suspended pursuant to section 13202, subdivision (b).   This appeal ensued.


 Appellant contends that rules of statutory construction mandate that specific, subsequently-enacted statutes control over general, previously-enacted statutes.   Therefore, he reasons that the later-enacted section 13202.5, which applied to “a person” who committed an offense specified in the statute “while the person was under the age of 21 years, but 13 years of age or older,” was applicable to him to the exclusion of section 13202.

In addition, on the assumption that sections 13202 and 13202.5 are penal statutes, appellant claims that when penal statutes are ambiguous, the court must adopt the construction most favorable to the defendant.   In light of our decision on the first contention, we need not reach this issue.


Issues of statutory construction present questions of law requiring independent review by appellate courts.  (Botello v. Shell Oil Co. (1991) 229 Cal.App.3d 1130, 1134, 280 Cal.Rptr. 535.)   As this court recently pointed out in In re Melchor P. (1992) 10 Cal.App.4th 788, 792, 12 Cal.Rptr.2d 812, “ ‘The starting point in statutory construction is to read and examine the text of the act and draw inferences concerning the meaning from its composition and structure.’  [Citation.]  ‘The meaning of a statute may not be determined from a single word or sentence;  the words must be construed in context, and provisions relating to the same subject matter must be harmonized to the extent possible.  [Citation.]’  [Citation.]   This requires reading each sentence not in isolation but ‘in order to harmonize the statutory scheme and not to produce absurd results.’  [Citation.]  ․ ‘[I]f a statute is amenable to two alternative interpretations, the one that leads to the more reasonable result will be followed.  [Citation.]’  [Citation.]”

“The policy sought to be implemented should be respected [citation], and to this end, titles of acts, headnotes, and chapter and section headings may properly be considered in determining legislative intent.  [Citations.]”  (Bowland v. Municipal Court (1976) 18 Cal.3d 479, 489, 134 Cal.Rptr. 630, 556 P.2d 1081.)

Sections 13202 and 13202.5 appear in the chapter of the Vehicle Code entitled “Suspension or Revocation of Licenses.”   They fall under article 2, “Suspension or Revocation by [the] Court.”   Among other provisions, article 2 contains seven sections listing certain conduct which triggers court action curtailing the driving privilege;  for example, speeding or reckless driving (§ 13200), certain misdemeanors (§ 13201), controlled substance offenses (§ 13202), drug and alcohol related offenses by persons under age of 21, but aged 13 or over (§ 13202.5), conviction of person aged 13 to 21 for vandalism (§ 13202.6), and habitual truancy by persons 13 to 18 years of age (§ 13202.7).

Section 13202, enacted in 1959 and amended yet again in 1984, the year section 13202.5 was adopted, provides for both discretionary and mandatory license suspension or revocation.   The court may suspend or order the revocation of an offender's privilege to drive for Health and Safety Code offenses defined in Division 10 (commencing with § 11000), when use of a motor vehicle was involved in commission of the offense.   However, the court must order revocation upon conviction of certain specified sections, including, as is pertinent to appellant, section 11359 of the Health and Safety Code.2

Section 13202.5, first enacted in 1984 but substantially rewritten in 1988 and further amended in 1990, provides in part:  “(a) For each conviction of a person for any offense specified in subdivision (d), committed while the person was under the age of 21 years, but 13 years of age or older, the court shall suspend the person's driving privilege for one year.   If the person convicted does not yet have the privilege to drive, the court shall order the department to delay issuing the privilege to drive for one year subsequent to the time the person becomes legally eligible to drive.”   Subdivision (d) provides that the section applies to violations involving controlled substances or alcohol including as is relevant here, “(2) Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code.”

In short, section 13202 deals with “any person” convicted of a listed controlled substance offense in which the use of a motor vehicle was involved or incidental to the commission of the offense.   With the exception of eight specified sections, the court has discretion whether to suspend or order the revocation of the offender's privilege to drive.

Section 13202.5, on the other hand, mandates suspension or delay of the privilege to drive of a limited population:  persons 13 or older, but under 21.   The range of triggering offenses is broader than that of section 13202;  not only drug- but also alcohol-related offenses will require the court's action.   Furthermore, although some of the offenses specified in subdivision (d) of section 13202.5 necessarily involve the use of a motor vehicle, for example, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Pen.Code, § 191.5), others, such as an attempt to purchase alcohol when under 21 (Bus. & Prof.Code, § 25658.5), do not.

 In construing two statutes, the court must assume that the Legislature had the previous statutes relating to the same subject matter in mind when it enacted subsequent provisions.  (Yoffie v. Marin Hospital Dist. (1987) 193 Cal.App.3d 743, 748, 238 Cal.Rptr. 502.)   The fact that a prior act was amended demonstrates legislative intent to change preexisting law, and we must presume that material changes in the language of an act were intended to change the law.  (Ibid.)  Where a general statute standing alone would include the same matter and conflict with a special statute, the special act will be considered as an exception to the general, whether it was passed before or after the general enactment.  (Ibid.)  The court must interpret the statutes in a manner calculated to give effect to the intent of the legislature.  (Id. at p. 747, 238 Cal.Rptr. 502.)

As we noted above, section 13202 was amended the same year the Legislature adopted section 13202.5.   Neither statute refers to the other.   The 1984 amendment of section 13202 merely substituted the words “any offense related to controlled substances” for “any narcotic controlled substance offense.”   (See Historical Note, 66 West Ann.Veh.Code (1987 ed.) § 13202, p. 317.)

Although a formal statement of legislative intent was not enacted until 1988, when the Legislature rewrote section 13202.5, an examination of the history of the enactment process (cf. 2A Sutherland, Statutory Construction (5th ed. 1992) § 48.04, pp. 324–326) indicates that in 1984, and again in 1988 and 1990, references to existing law affecting youthful drivers did not include section 13202.

In 1988, the Legislature declared findings that focus exclusively on youthful drivers.3  It stated that individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol demonstrate a dangerous disregard for the safe operation of motor vehicles, that there is a particularly acute risk for individuals under the age of 21, and that the increased potential for teenage deaths while being under the influence of drugs or alcohol requires special attention.   It declared its intent to reduce the incidence of youthful drivers who pose a danger to the health and safety of other drivers by suspending or delaying the driving privilege of youthful drivers who use alcohol or other illegal drugs.   The Legislature hoped that suspension and delay “may provide a means of deterring use” of these drugs, and “discourage the possession and use” of these drugs by potential drivers.

 In 1990, the Legislative Counsel's Digest 4 declared:  “(1) Existing law requires a court to suspend, restrict, or delay for one year the driving privilege of persons under age 21, but 13 years of age or older, convicted of offenses relating to alcohol or controlled substances.

“This bill would require a court to suspend, restrict, or delay for one year the driving privilege of persons in that age group who commit additional offenses relating to alcohol and controlled substances when operating a vehicle, bicycle, or vessel, as specified․”  (Stats.1990, ch. 1696, p. 6884.)

From the history of the statute, therefore, it appears that the Legislature did not perceive section 13202 as a source of authority for action against the driving privileges of youthful offenders.

On another point, we note that the Legislature has long treated youthful offenders separately from adults.   The purpose of the Juvenile Court Law is benevolent in intent:  “to provide for the protection and safety of the public and each minor under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court․  [¶] ․ Minors under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court as a consequence of delinquent conduct shall, in conformity with the interests of public safety and protection, receive care, treatment and guidance which is consistent with their best interest, which holds them accountable for their behavior, and which is appropriate for their circumstances.   This guidance may include punishment that is consistent with the rehabilitative objectives of this chapter․  [¶] [ ] ‘Punishment,’ for the purposes of this chapter, does not include retribution.”  (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 202.)

The stated purposes of section 13202.5, protection of the public and prevention and discouragement of unsafe behavior in these drivers, therefore mesh with the overall purpose of the Juvenile Court Law.   In addition, the rehabilitative opportunities afforded to errant youthful drivers by section 13202.5 and its neighbors, sections 13202.6 and 13202.7, contrast with the stark consequences of section 13202.

Section 13202.6, enacted in 1990, provides for suspension or delay of the driving privilege of persons aged 13 to 21 on conviction of vandalism by defacing property with paint or any other liquid.   That statute has a clearly rehabilitative provision which allows the period of suspension or delay to be reduced by the performance of community service under the supervision of the probation department.   In addition the youthful offender may petition the court for a modification of the order, which may be changed if there are no further convictions during the 12–month period following the original conviction.   However, if there are further convictions, the suspension or delay order is to be increased by an additional one-year period for each successive offense.

Section 13202.7, enacted in 1991, allows the court to suspend, delay, or restrict the driving privileges of a ward of the court who is 13 years old but under the age of 18, and who is an habitual truant.   Pursuant to a provision similar to that in section 13202.6, if the minor desists from truancy during the one-year period, he or she may petition the court for a modification of the order.   If the minor persists in truancy, however, additional one-year periods must be imposed for each successive time the minor is found to be an habitual truant.

Section 13202.5 also employs the carrot and stick technique.   Subdivision (a) allows the court to modify the order suspending or delaying driving privileges if there are no further convictions for any of the specified offenses in the 12–month period following the order.   However, if there are successive offenses, the court must impose additional one-year periods.   In addition, subdivision (c) allows the youthful driver to petition the court for modification of the order suspending or delaying driving privileges if he or she shows a critical need to drive.   A critical need to drive is defined by section 12513, which allows junior permits where school or public transportation facilities are inadequate, and the minor must drive to attend school, to work for the support of the family, or because operation of a vehicle is necessary due to illness of a family member.5

Section 13202 has no such behavior-modifying inducements.  “[T]he long-range purpose of a driver's license suspension is to protect the public by keeping unfit drivers from driving.”  (Ellis v. Pierce (1991) 230 Cal.App.3d 1557, 1562, 282 Cal.Rptr. 93.)   This the statute accomplishes by authorizing the court to determine the period during which the offender's driving privilege will be inoperative, and to either suspend the offender's license or order the department of motor vehicles to revoke the license.   The statute offers no opportunities for mitigating the effect of the suspension or revocation.

Finally, section 13202.5 provides, as section 13202 does not, “As used in this section, the term ‘conviction’ includes the findings in juvenile proceedings specified in Section 13105.”

Normally, “[a]n order adjudging a minor to be a ward of the juvenile court shall not be deemed a conviction of a crime for any purpose․”  (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 203.)   Nevertheless, section 13105 states:  “For the purposes of this chapter, ‘convicted’ or ‘conviction’ includes a finding by a judge of a juvenile court, a juvenile traffic hearing officer, or referee of a juvenile court that a person has committed an offense, and ‘court’ includes a juvenile court except as otherwise specifically provided.”   Although sections 13202 and 13202.5 are in the same chapter as section 13105, we believe that by inserting the provision in section 13202.5 which specifically applied the definitions of section 13105 to itself, the Legislature intended section 13202.5 to control in matters relating to drivers of the age specified in the statute.

Consequently, we conclude that the trial court erred in suspending appellant's driver's license under section 13202.


The judgment is reversed and remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.


1.   Further statutory references are to the Vehicle Code unless otherwise stated.

2.   In the instant case, the court applied section 13202, subdivisions (b) and (c):  “A court shall order that the department [of Motor Vehicles] revoke and the department shall revoke the privilege of any person to operate a motor vehicle upon conviction of a violation of Section 11350, 11351, 11352, 11353, 11357, 11359, 11360, or 11361 of the Health and Safety Code when a motor vehicle was involved in, or incidental to, the commission of such offense.“(c) The period of time for suspension or the period after revocation during which the person may not apply for a license shall be determined by the court, but in no event shall such period exceed three years from the date of conviction.”

3.   Section 1 of Stats.1988, ch. 1254, pp. 4175–4176 provides:  “(a) The Legislature finds and declares as follows:  [¶] (1) It is unlawful to use, purchase, possess, or distribute controlled substances unless expressly permitted by law.  [¶] (2) It is unlawful for any driver to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  [¶] (3) Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol demonstrate a dangerous disregard for the safe legal operation of motor vehicles.   The risk is particularly acute for individuals under the age of 21.  [¶] (4) The increased potential for teenage deaths [from accidents,] ․ homicides and suicides, while being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, requires special attention in order to reduce the statewide youth fatality rate and to control unlawful and unsafe driving practices.“(b) It is, therefore, the intent of the Legislature to enact this measure in an attempt to reduce the incidence of young drivers on the highways and roads of this state who, because of their use of alcohol or other illegal drugs, pose a danger to the health and safety of other drivers by all or a combination of the following methods:“(1) To prevent use of motor vehicles by drivers under the age of 21 years by suspending their driving privileges for one year from the date of conviction, because a one year suspension of these drivers' privileges may provide a means of deterring use of alcohol and other illegal drugs by these young persons.“(2) To make the one year suspension of driving privileges a mandatory requirement for any person under the age of 21 years who has been convicted of possessing or using alcohol or other illegal drugs.“(3) In order to discourage the possession and use of alcohol and other illegal drugs by potential drivers of motor vehicles, a one year delay of the ability to apply for a driver's license if the potential driver is 13 years of age or older and is convicted of possession or use of alcohol or other illegal drugs.”

4.   Constructions of the Legislative Counsel are entitled to great weight, “since they are prepared to assist the Legislature in its consideration of pending legislation.”  (California Assn. of Psychology Providers v. Rank (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1, 17, 270 Cal.Rptr. 796, 793 P.2d 2.)

5.   This court recently determined that section 13202.5 was intended to “punish” errant youthful drivers equally, whether or not they were licensed (In re Melchor P., supra, 10 Cal.App.4th 788, 12 Cal.Rptr.2d 812), while this opinion has focussed on the rehabilitative aspects of the statutory scheme.   It should be noted that Welfare and Institutions Code section 202, subdivision (e), defines punishment as “the imposition of sanctions which include the following:  [¶] [ ] (3) Limitations on the minor's liberty imposed as a condition of probation or parole.”   In enacting and amending section 13202.5, the Legislature was well aware that for teenagers “the privilege to drive a car rates near the top [of their set of values].”  (Senate Republican Caucus Digest, Senate Bill No. 1411, (July 17, 1984) p. 2.)

PREMO, Associate Justice.

COTTLE, Acting P.J., and ELIA, J., concur.