Whenever I have a new client come in for a consultation regarding a DUI they received in Oklahoma, one of the first things I always discuss is the fact that a DUI (and many other alcohol and drug related offenses that occur in a vehicle) is actually two legal battles that the client has to prepare for.
In most cases, a drug or alcohol related offense that occurs inside, or during the operation of, a motor vehicle will result in potentially adverse ramifications for the accused person's driving license. This is a result of DPS initiating an administrative action against the license holder. It is imperative that you understand the difference between the criminal and administrative settings if you are ever faced with the prospects of having to defend both your freedom and your driving privileges.
The easiest way to look at the difference between the two settings (the criminal case v. the administrative case) is to view the two cases as two separate roads traveling in the same direction. With this example in mind, you can imagine one road that must be traveled when dealing with the criminal case, and another side road you have to ride while dealing with the administrative issues. Both roads have different speed limits. There is a small chance these roads may intersect; however, there is also a great chance that the two roads will never intertwine. For that reason, its good to have someone on your side to show you where the exit and on-ramps are located.
Often times, the result of one of these two settings does not necessarily affect the other. When you are dealing with an alcohol related crime, you do not lose your license merely because you are put on probation (unless you are convicted). Also, you do not automatically win your DPS administrative hearing (often referred to as a "set-aside" of the revocation) simply because your criminal case is dismissed.
In my opinion, these roads cross more in drug cases, because a conviction for a drug crime that occurs in a moving automobile is usually the only way a drug charge can result in the automatic revocation of your license in Oklahoma.
Even though the two cases are often independent of each other to a degree, there is evidence that will definitely lend itself to both settings, regardless. In the DPS action. One of the issues that should always come under contention in both cases is whether or not the defendant in the criminal case was actually "arrested." Anyone familiar with the law understands that the term "arrested" is a legal term-of-art that goes far beyond the plain English definition of the word. There are many different factors and circumstances that have to be taken into consideration when making the determination as to whether an individual is actually "arrested."So, in certain situations, facts involving the criminal arrest and charge could possibly play favorably or unfavorably in regards to the DPS action.
There is one huge difference between the two proceedings that must be kept in mind though. In the criminal case, there are actually trained, licensed attorneys arguing the facts on both sides of the dispute. This is not the case in a DPS administrative action. In a DPS license hearing, there is usually only one attorney in the room (or on the phone if it is a telephonic hearing), and that attorney almost always represents the defendant. The "administrative hearing officer," on the other hand, is most often not an attorney. In fact, it is very possible that the administrative hearing officer may have about as much background and knowledge in the art of law and evidence as the "defendant" who is facing the license revocation.
That sounds like a great situation for the defense, right?
Due to a lack of legal knowledge on the part of many administrative hearing officers, far too many DPS hearing decisions are "rubber-stamped" more or less. The administrative hearing officers don't always understand the laws of evidence, and they allow in "evidence" that should be excluded, all the while excluding things that should be allowed for consideration.
Because of this problem, there is a safeguard available for individuals who do not receive a fair and unbiased DPS administrative hearing. If an individual loses his DPS license hearing, he or she is allowed to petition to the district court in order to appeal the decision of the DPS administrative hearing officer.
During the district court appeal, the attorney for the defendant/licensee is able to present evidence and argue law to an actual, real-life Judge. Often times a district court appeal is the only way a licensee is able to get a fair shot at keeping his or her license.
Regardless, our office has been able to secure numerous wins for our clients in their DPS hearings without having to spend the extra money and time required to pursue a district court appeal. Thanks to our diligent work, and the great precedent set by a few other DUI attorneys in Oklahoma, we have been able to win the majority of our recent DPS administrative hearings.
With so much at stake, it is very important that you hire a criminal defense attorney who has not only a great record with DPS administrative hearings, but also with criminal defense representation. Keep all of this in mind when you are choosing the lawyer who will assist you with your drug or alcohol charges.