We’ve all been there on occasion – it’s late, one drink has stretched into three or maybe more, and you just want to get home without fuss. If you have to work in the morning, the idea of leaving your car behind is fraught with its own problems. How are you going to get the vehicle back in the morning and still get to your job on time? Even if it’s the wee hours of Sunday morning and you have nothing pressing to do the next day, you might figure that you live only half a mile away so driving is a minimal risk, right?
Depending on a lot of factors – your gender, your weight, your metabolism and how much you’ve had to eat, to name a few – it can be surprisingly easy to get to that magic number: a .08 blood alcohol concentration. That’s the point where Oklahoma DUI Laws say you’re intoxicated. You shouldn’t be operating a vehicle. Whether you live 10 miles away or you’re half a mile from your driveway, this doesn’t affect your driving skills. It only means that you may have less opportunity to cross paths with law enforcement. Or worse.
The Moment of Truth
If you cross paths with law enforcement, you have at least one important decision to make. The officer may ask you to take a sobriety test and do some intricate footwork on the side of the road to prove you’re in full control of all your motor skills. If you fail or if he proceeds directly to asking you to take a breath test, here’s where things can get tricky. Under Oklahoma law, you can’t decline to take the test, at least not without losing your driver’s license. You already gave your implied consent to taking a breath test when you got behind the wheel. If you retract it by saying no at the scene, you’ll be taking a cab or bumming rides for at least six months – and this is if you haven’t found yourself in such a predicament before. If this is your second or third offense, you’re looking at a year of getting by without your driver’s license.
What to do?
Call a lawyer. Technically, the police must measure your BAC within two hours of stopping you. This gives you a window of time in which to reach out for help or advice, particularly in this day and age of cellphones. Use the time you have to your best advantage. As an aside, it probably won’t do you much good to try to stall past the two-hour limit. Oklahoma prosecutors can and have managed to get convictions based on BAC measurements taken after this time.
This Is Going to Hurt
If you’re convicted of driving under the influence, there’s no pretty way around it – the ordeal isn’t going to be painless. The best case scenario is that you’re charged in municipal court because this is a misdemeanor. But the police will file the charge in district court if it isn’t your first DUI or if you’re involved in an accident, and this transforms the charge to a felony. At the misdemeanor level, you’re looking at 10 days to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. This jumps to one to 10 years in jail for a third offense felony conviction, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Your first DUI conviction counts against you for ten years, but if this is your third DUI, the look-back period is limitless – it doesn’t matter when the first offense occurred. Oklahoma suspends your license for six months for a misdemeanor DUI or a second-offense felony DUI, and a year for a third offense.
Some Rules Have Changed
Oklahoma lawmakers have rolled up their shirtsleeves to get tougher on DUI offenders. In 2010, the Aaron Gillming Act was signed into law, requiring that you participate in a drug and alcohol evaluation and assessment program prior to sentencing. The judge wants to know if you have a significant dependency problem and, if so, how receptive you’ll be to treatment. A treatment program can be a condition of your sentence.
A year later, in 2011, the Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act passed, mandating interlocking ignition devices on all vehicles owned and operated by DUI offenders – even first-time offenders if they have a BAC of .15 or higher. The state will stamp the words “Interlock Required” on your driver’s license to alert law enforcement if you attempt to drive a car other than your own. This state of affairs will last for 18 months. Second- and third-time offenders are subject to the .08 BAC level and the device is required for four years. Your car won’t start unless you blow into the device to prove that you haven’t had anything to drink.
Don’t Go Down Without a Fight
By now, you’re probably holding your head in your hands and swearing off alcohol for the rest of your life, or at the very least vowing never to drink and get behind the wheel of a car. The latter is a good thing – it’s always better to be safe than sorry. But to err is human and if you err, you need the help of an attorney who’s experienced with the ins and outs of all these laws. Once upon a time, it was possible to plea bargain a DUI offense down to a lesser charge in Oklahoma, but the Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act changed that, too. Now your only chance is to disprove the case the state thinks it has against you.
You need an expert attorney by your side who knows the best way to do that. If you find yourself in this situation, call us today at (405) 703-4567.