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The Oklahoma Legal Group Blog

New Year's Eve and DUI: What You Need to Know

Adam Banner - Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On almost every major holiday, or in the days surrounding it, there seems to be an increase in the number of impaired drivers on Oklahoma roads. Law enforcement agencies know that many people celebrate these holidays at parties and get-togethers where alcohol is consumed--often in large quantities. Because of this, local police, county sheriff's offices, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol take measures to get impaired drivers off the streets. They publicly announce that they will be increasing patrols--known as saturation patrols--looking for impaired drivers, and they announce that there will be sobriety checkpoints around the city, although they do not typically divulge where these DUI roadblocks will be located.

Announcement of increased law enforcement presence in search of DUI drivers is intended to give people pause--to make them think twice before drinking and driving, knowing that their likelihood of being arrested for DUI is increased with the saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints potentially located along the route home.

Often, these so-called "sobriety checkpoints" actually lead to more outstanding warrants arrests than DUI arrests, but any time a person makes the decision to drive after drinking, he or she runs the risk of arrest or worse--being involved in a serious or fatal accident.

In Oklahoma, DUI laws punish driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs if the driver's blood alcohol concentration is found to be at or above 0.08 percent. Most people are aware of this legal limit, but many are not aware of the other alcohol-related traffic crimes with which a person may be charged.

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI) - The most widely recognized alcohol-related driving offense is DUI. In Oklahoma, a driver is considered to be driving under the influence if the BAC is 0.08 percent or greater or if he or she has any detectable amount of a Schedule I drug or its metabolites or analogs in his or her system. The test for drugs or blood alcohol must be conducted within two hours of arrest.
  • Driving While Impaired (DWI) - Many people do not realize that in Oklahoma, a person can be arrested for driving while impaired by alcohol with a BAC below 0.08 percent. If a law enforcement officer determines that a person shows signs of impaired driving, that driver may be arrested for DWI with a BAC greater than 0.05 percent but less than 0.08 percent.
  • DUI under 21 - Oklahoma has zero tolerance for impaired driving by young adults under the age of 21. A person under the legal drinking age can be arrested for DUI with any measurable quantity of alcohol in the blood.
  • Aggravated DUI - Driving with a BAC of 0.15 or greater is considered aggravated DUI.
  • Actual Physical Control (APC) - A person can be arrested for an alcohol-related traffic offense even if he or she is not driving. It is illegal to be in actual physical control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. If police find a person passed out behind the wheel of a running car, it is not a defense to argue that the person was not driving, and therefore not guilty of DUI. Instead, the person can be charged with APC, which carries the same penalties as DUI. It is important to understand that you can be charged for APC even if you have no intention of driving the vehicle. For example, if you have been drinking and call a sober ride, you can be arrested if you sit behind the wheel of your vehicle with the keys in the ignition and the heater running while you wait for your ride. Wait inside the building if at all possible. If not, distance yourself from your keys--lock them in the trunk or in the glove box, and wait in the back seat of your vehicle. Do not leave the keys in the ignition or the car running.

We hope that you will have a safe and happy New Year celebration, and we ask that you make responsible choices: don't drink and drive, and if you will be out drinking, find a sober ride home. We wish you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.






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