Once a person has been arrested for DUI or APC, and they either refused to take a breath or blood chemical test or tested above a 0.08% BAC, they are facing 2 separate cases that must be defended by their lawyer at the same time. First is the potential for the revocation of their driving privileges while in the State of Oklahoma for up to 3 years - even if they are an out of state licensee. Next, is the accompanying criminal charge in either Municipal or District court which can carry both fines and/or jail time. These cases are distinct from each other, however the only time that the two cases can intertwine is if the person becomes convicted of the DUI or APC in the criminal court case. Each portion of the case must be defended or the client stands to lose their rights by default.
The Driver's License Case - A person only has 15 days from arrest to act!
When a person is arrested for a DUI or APC, and they either test above a 0.08% BAC or refuse to be tested, their license to drive is taken from them and they are given a piece of paper, called an Officer's Affidavit, in its place for the next 30 days. It's this seizure of the arrested person's license that gives the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety the power to revoke the person's privilege to operate a motor vehicle while in Oklahoma. If the arrested person does nothing else, their privilege to drive will become revoked for at least 180 days and perhaps up to 3 years. A person has the right to challenge this revocation, but they only have 15 days from the date that they were arrested to request a hearing from the DPS. This must be done in writing as described by the instructions on the back of the affidavit and sent to the DPS. If a hearing is requested, the revocation will not go into effect until the hearing is held and a decision is made by a DPS hearing officer.
The DPS Hearing
As described in the previous section, once a hearing request is timely made by the licensee, the DPS will schedule a hearing on the merits of the case and will send the licensee a temporary drivers license on which to drive while the hearing is pending. The person DOES NOT BECOME REVOKED until the hearing is held and only IF the DPS hearing rules in favor of the Government's case. If no officer shows up to the hearing or if that officer fails to carry his burden of proof in the hearing, the licensee wins their case and the DPS will mail the license that was taken on the night of arrest. If the DPS hearing rules in favor of the officer, the licensee still has the option of appealing that decision or requesting a judge to grant them modified driving privileges (driving 24/7 with a breath machine for the duration of the revocation) or both.
Commercial Driver License Concerns
Oklahoma Government has seen fit to make an arrest for DUI even more difficult for persons who drive for a living, The same standard features apply by having both a criminal and DPS case, but the rules in how the criminal case is handled can be significantly different. Under the current Oklahoma law, a person who drives on a commercial license (A, B, or C) and is "convicted" of the criminal charge of DUI faces disqualification and revocation of their license. A conviction under the law includes not only pleas of guilty or no contest, but also includes simply PAYING COURT COSTS even if the criminal case is dismissed! The Department of Public Safety (DPS) will disqualify a commercial licensee for at least one year (depending on the prior record) for failing the test with a score of .08% OR higher BAC (breath/blood alcohol concentration) upon "conviction" of the DUI or APC.
The Criminal Court Case
The second part of an arrest for DUI or APC is the criminal court case. Whether a case will be filed as a misdemeanor or felony will depend upon where the case is filed and any prior convictions for DUI or APC that a person has had. The type of charge, and where the case is filed, will determine what level of punishment the Government will want to assess Generally, there are three (3) types of charges:: Driving Under the Influence, Aggravated DUI, and Actual Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence. The filing of which one of these charges depends upon the facts of the case and/or the chemical test result. Fines and punishment for each of these charges vary by where they are filed. Municipal Charges vary by the City, for example Oklahoma City's maximum fine is $1200 and/or 6 months in jail. A District Court misdemeanor charge of DUI or APC charge carries a $1000 and up to a year in jail. Felony DUI or APC carries up to 5 years in jail and fines up to $5000.
The Criminal Court Case continued...
Aggravated DUI is filed when a person is tested and has a breath or blood alcohol result of 0.15% or higher (Oklahoma County very rarely files these counts.). Unless you have prior convictions, a first offense filed any of the ways above is still a misdemeanor. The only difference between aggravated DUI and regular DUI is that, UPON CONVICTION for aggravated DUI, a Judge can demand a person do up to 480 hours of community service, or have an ignition interlock on a personal vehicle for at least 30 days, or a combination of the above. Any time a person is convicted of a DUI or APC, either misdemeanor or felony, they will automatically lose their driving privileges for at least 180 days and up to 3 years even if they were successful at the drivers license hearing. The person may still ask for a modified drivers license during the revocation period. This only applies to class "D' drivers. Commercial, class A, B, or C drivers would be disqualified for at least a year as mentioned above
First, defenses to an arrest for DUI or APC are multiple, varied and available in EVERY case. Next, a person should be sure to keep in mind the 15 day window to request a hearing for the drivers license - If this door closes, there is no way to re-open it. Finally, and probably most important, they should contact a DUI lawyer to review the facts in their particular case and to discuss the various defenses that may be available to them. DUI lawyers have taken the time and effort to become trained and educated in all of the evidence that may be presented against a person by the Government. Knowledge of this information is powerful in defending DUI cases, and it really can make a difference when it comes to who a person should hire as their lawyer.
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