It is against state law to drive if under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The combination of driving while intoxicated can be deadly. In Oklahoma, drunk driving offenses are known as driving while under the influence (DUI). Criminal penalties for DUI range from a suspended drivers' license to county jail time to a state prison sentence, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances of the crime. Drivers should be aware of the DUI laws and how the state assesses penalties.
Just One Drink
Alcohol has been shown to decrease motor function and slow reaction time. This is why law enforcement officers ask drivers to stand or walk a straight line. People under the influence of drugs and alcohol can have difficulty with reaction times and coordination. Even one drink or a similar amount of drugs can cause you to be less alert.
Signs of Impairment in Oklahoma
Even before the officer stops a person on suspicion of DUI, the officer will be evaluating the person for signs of impairment. The officer will note whether a car has swerved, has trouble staying in the lane, is travelling at below-average speed, or is swiping lane markers.
Field Sobriety Tests in Oklahoma
Once the officer has stopped the vehicle, he or she will ask whether the driver has been drinking. Then the officer will ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests. Drivers are not required under the law to submit to field sobriety tests. A person can legally refuse, but should do so carefully and politely.
Chemical Tests in Oklahoma
Conversely, Oklahoma drivers are required to submit to chemical tests upon request. This means you cannot refuse to take a blood, breath, saliva or urine test if the officer asks for one. When you obtain a drivers' license in Oklahoma, you accept this requirement as a condition of being able to legally drive. This is known as "implied consent," and it means if an officer has probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence, you must consent to the test. The test must be taken within two hours after driving.
Refusing Chemical Tests in Oklahoma
If a driver refuses the test, the officer is required to request a second time, and then inform the driver about the penalties for refusing the test. If the driver continues to refuse the test, the officer can immediately revoke the drivers' license, even if the person has not been drinking. This revocation can be from six months to three years, depending on the person's record. Officers also have the discretion to arrest a person who refuses a chemical test.
BAC Limits in Oklahoma
A DUI test is usually based on how much alcohol content is in a person's blood. This is known as the "BAC." When an officer administers a breathalyzer test, for example, the reading will show the BAC measurement.
- A person who is 21 years or over and has a BAC of 0.08% or more, they are over the legal limit.
- A person who is under 21 years old with any BAC measurement is over the legal limit, which is 0 for a person who is not old enough to drink.
- A person who holds a CDL who has a BAC of at or over 0.04% is over the legal limit.
- Even people who are under the 0.08% level, can still be penalized. Under Oklahoma law, a person is driving while impaired if they have a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08%.
Does Refusing a Chemical Test Help?
In most cases refusing to take a chemical test does not help a driver avoid penalties. If you refuse a test and it is your first DUI offense in Oklahoma, you will serve a minimum of ten days in jail, and be fined up to $1,000. You will also be required to go to a program which assesses whether you have a substance abuse problem. These are more serious penalties than a suspended license.
Some people think that refusing the test means they will not be convicted of DUI, since there will be no BAC test. However, you can still be found guilty of DUI even absent the BAC test. Local prosecutors will use your refusal against you, arguing that you avoided the test because you were guilty.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Oklahoma or another state, or have prior DUI offenses in Oklahoma or another state, you should contact a DUI attorney. A DUI charge is more serious than a mere traffic offense, and you should not go it alone. Our experienced criminal lawyers are available immediately. Simply call 405-542-2529 (542-CLAW) or contact us via our website. You can also learn more about our team, or continue reading and researching our free legal information library.