On Wednesday, February 7, 2024, the Supreme Court of California issued an order suspending attorney Melina Shalysse Benninghoff from the practice of law for one year, with the execution of the suspension stayed, and placed on probation for one year subject to certain conditions.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Melina Shalysse Benninghoff,” with case no. S283039.

According to the stipulation, Benninghoff was convicted in 2018 of two misdemeanor counts, including driving under the influence, stemming from a June 2016 incident in which she drove her vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.21% and crashed into a power pole. At the time, Benninghoff’s driver’s license was suspended due to a prior DUI conviction, and she was on probation for that offense.

The stipulation details that when law enforcement responded to the crash scene, Benninghoff exhibited signs of intoxication but initially denied driving and fabricated a story about her purported boyfriend fleeing the scene. This led police to expend significant resources searching for a person matching the description provided. Benninghoff later admitted she was under the influence. She declined field sobriety tests, and a blood test showed her blood alcohol level was well over the legal limit.

Aggravating the offense was that Benninghoff had prior legal experience as a criminal prosecutor and defense attorney at the time of the incident. However, the stipulation cited mitigating factors including Benninghoff’s prompt enrollment in programs to address her alcohol use disorder just 30 days after the arrest. She completed the State Bar’s Alternative Discipline Program and has maintained sobriety through treatment.

The stipulation acknowledges Benninghoff’s conduct involved moral turpitude and warranted professional discipline. In the disposition, Benninghoff agreed to a one-year suspension, stayed, with one year of probation subject to conditions. The Supreme Court’s order imposed the recommended discipline and added requirements to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and pay a portion of the State Bar’s costs for the investigation and prosecution of the case.

Benninghoff’s probation conditions include compliance with ethics rules, cooperation with the State Bar, quarterly reporting, and completion of the State Bar Ethics School and a California legal ethics continuing education course since she resides out-of-state. She must also abide by any criminal probation terms resulting from her conviction. If Benninghoff satisfies all probation conditions, the stayed suspension will be terminated after one year.

According to avvo.com, Ms. Benninghoff is a criminal defense attorney in Madera, California. She attended the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, graduating in 1992. She acquired her law license in California in 1993.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.