Cleveland County, Oklahoma Pilots Program to Reduce Repeat DUI Offenses
It has been well-known for many years not only in Oklahoma but throughout the United States that drunk driving offenders have a high recidivism rate. Many states have tried various approaches to reduce the incidence of repeat DUI offenses, with varying degrees of success. According to Erik Smoot, a representative of the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, Oklahoma has been possibly the least successful state-level jurisdiction in the country in curbing drunk drivers from getting back behind the wheel. He claims that the state ranks 51st nationally in reducing DUI fatalities, which when combined with the state’s ranking of 17th in the number of drunk driving-related fatalities paints a grim picture overall.
A major part of the problem of repeat Oklahoma DUI offenders in appears to be a loophole in the way that such individuals are processed and tracked — or not tracked — under the dual criminal and administrative penalty system in place Oklahoma. The criminal aspect of drunk driving punishment involves the imposition of sanctions that include the assessment of fines and jail sentences. The administrative side is where rehabilitation efforts occur, such as the Alcohol and and Drug Substance Abuse Course as well as preventative measures like the requirement to have ignition interlock devices installed on vehicles occurs.
Unfortunately, it appears that Oklahoma drivers who elect to disregard the administrative sanctions and drink and drive again are not being adequately accounted for. Specifically, if the administrative penalties include license suspension or even revocation, the ABLE Commission suspects that many of them are simply choosing to continue to drive anyway without a driver’s license. The evidence to support this assumption appears to be circumstantial. According to Smoot, only about one-quarter of drivers who are arrested for DUI offenses try to regain their driver’s licenses; this may mean that many such drivers had no license when they were arrested.
Compounding the problem is the lack of any method of tracking drivers who commit drunk driving offenses while having their licenses suspended. Such individuals are put through the criminal side of the legal system again, but with no license to suspend or revoke they drop out of the administrative side altogether and are not counted under it. There is no requirement, evidently, to administratively account for drivers who choose to drive while intoxicated with no license and with no ignition interlock device installed in the vehicle that they are using.
At least one attempt was undertaken in the Oklahoma state legislature this year to revise the way that the criminal and administrative sides of the legal system coordinate so that the problem of repeat DUI offenders can be reduced, but the effort stalled before a final bill could be written. So the next best effort has been the establishment of a similar effort but on a smaller scale: a pilot program that streamlines the two sides of the law is currently being tried out in Cleveland County. Proponents of drunk driving legal reform in the state are hoping that if the Cleveland County program yields positive results then it could form the basis for a renewed statewide legislative effort to better keep track of recidivist drunk drivers.
If you or a loved one has been charged with an Oklahoma DUI charge, contact the DUI attorneys at the Hunsucker Legal Group at 405-231-5600 or visit www.okdui.com for your free consultation.