Oklahoma has recently updated its driving under the influence (DUI) laws and penalties with the enactment of the “Impaired Driving Elimination Act.” This new act, which became effective in early November 2016, shifts all DUI cases from the municipal non-courts into what are known as courts of record. To put it simply, courts of record can track cases between counties easier, allowing the criminal justice system to identify repeat offenders faster and hit them with heavier penalties if convicted.
Before the new bill became an active law, Oklahoma drivers could receive multiple “first offense convictions” so long as they were never convicted within the same county twice. With DUI charges being shifted to courts of record, a DUI arrest up in Guymon could count as a second DUI if the offender had been convicted down in Durant, for example. In Oklahoma, any DUI charge beyond the first is considered a felony, so long as it occurs within a 10-year lookback period.
Second-time DUIs in Oklahoma can be penalized with:
- 1 to 5 years’ imprisonment
- $2,500 fine
- 6-month license suspension
- Ignition interlock device installation
Reasoning Behind the Law
Proponents of the Impaired Driving Elimination Act (IDEA) have cited multiple instances where motorists were continuing to drive despite racking up multiple DUI convictions. The author of IDEA, Mike Sanders, a representative of District 59, stated that he discovered information that some drivers had been convicted more than a dozen times for DUIs but never had to deal with any harsh penalties. After his wife was struck by an intoxicated driver with five DUIs, he saw the importance of changing up Oklahoma’s DUI penalty system.
The question that now arises is whether or not DUI penalties should be reduced in Oklahoma. The state has comparatively strict penalties for just a second-time, nonviolent DUI conviction. With all counties tied together in the courts of records, it is highly likely that more and more drivers will be hit with second-time DUI charges and convictions. Could it lead to an influx of excessive punishments and potentially packed jailhouses? Time will tell, as the law is quite young.
In the meantime, if you are pulled over and charged with a DUI in central Oklahoma, get in contact with the Law Offices of Keith J. Nedwick, P.C. Our Norman criminal defense attorneys can provide you with the legal representation and knowledge you require to fight your charges and protect your driving privilege.