With the holiday season quickly approaching (hell, its basically already here), right now seems as good of time as any for a quick review of Oklahoma DUI laws.
After all, these holidays and their surrounding weekend have some of the highest arrest rates for DUI, with celebrants often drinking too much to drive before heading home from holiday parties, office parties, and family get-togethers. Moreover, officers are on high-alert for any suspicious driving that may give them an indication that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Although DUI is often a misdemeanor on the first offense (although a second or subsequent could be charged as a felony under certain circumstances), it is still a serious crime, and the results of driving while impaired can be expensive and inconvenient at best and deadly at worst.
Oklahoma's DUI Laws
Here are 5 things you need to know about DUI laws in Oklahoma:
- You can be arrested with a BAC below 0.08 percent. The legal limit to signify drunk driving per se in Oklahoma is 0.08 percent. However, even with a BAC below the legal limit, you may still be arrested and charged with a crime. Oklahoma has zero-tolerance for underage drinking and driving, and the legal limit for DUI in drivers under 21 is only 0.02 percent. DUI under 21 usually has lesser penalties if the BAC is 0.02 to 0.07 percent, but at 0.08 percent, prosecutors are more likely to charge the crime as regular DUI. An adult driver over 21 may also be charged with an alcohol related driving offense with a BAC below 0.08 percent. If a driver is found to have a BAC of 0.06 or 0.07, he or she may be charged with DWI, or driving while impaired.
- You can be arrested even if you aren't driving. Oklahoma law makes it a crime to be in actual physical control (APC) of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Being in actual physical control means that, even if you aren't driving, you could easily start the car and begin driving at any time. If you are in the driver's seat with the keys in the ignition, or even in your hand, you are considered to be in actual physical control of the vehicle. If you are waiting for a sober driver to come pick you up, you should wait inside the building, if possible. If not, and you must wait in your car, find a way to distance yourself from your keys--lock them in the trunk or leave them with a friend or the owner of the establishment. The penalties for APC are equal to the penalties for DUI.
- If you refuse to submit to a breath test, your driver's license will be suspended. Oklahoma operates under "Implied Consent" to DUI testing. This means that, as a condition of receiving your driver's license, you agree to blood alcohol testing if you are suspected of DUI. Refusal to submit is a violation of that "contract," and thus, your license is suspended. You still have the option to refuse--just understand that you will lose your license.
- A DUI arrest will usually result in TWO cases that you have to deal with. You will not merely face criminal charges if you are arrested for a DUI. You will also face an administrative action at the hands of the Department of Public Safety. During the administrative case, DPS will try and revoke your driving privileges. You are entitled to a hearing where your attorney can challenge the revocation, but you only have 15 days from the date of arrest to request the administrative hearing.
- You do not have to answer questions about whether or not you have been drinking (and how much) or to perform field sobriety tests. Questions about where you have been, whether you have been drinking, and how much you have had to drink are intended to give police probably cause to make a DUI arrest. You do not have to answer any such questions. Just as you have the right to remain silent after an arrest, you have the right to remain silent before an arrest. Similarly, the National Standardized Field Sobriety Tests such as the one-legged stand and the walk-and-turn test are designed to give probable cause to an arresting officer. You do not have to perform these tests. Law enforcement is notoriously bad at appropriately evaluating these tests, and you do not want their flawed "evidence" used against you. If you are stopped for DUI, be polite and provide your ID, but that is all you need to do.
- If you are arrested, call your lawyer as soon as possible to fight the DUI charge.