Oklahoma Official Suspended for DUI. Why is He Driving?

driving despite oklahoma DUI suspension - why?Just a few weeks ago Oklahoma’s Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger lost his challenge to a 2015 DUI. As a result he lost his driving privileges for six months.

Doerflinger is back behind the wheel already. What’s going on?

It’s not a backroom deal, if that’s what you’re worried about: no sacks of cash left under car seats or other offers the judge couldn’t refuse.

What the court did was standard procedure on Oklahoma’s law books: it granted Doerflinger permission to drive, provided he do so with an ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

For the next 18 months the device will keep him off the road should he decide to drink. Yet the interlock will also allow him to do his job. Oklahoma allows anyone whose license has been suspended to apply for a hardship exemption. If the terms of the suspension mean the offender has no other means of transportation, and this will result in hardship, then a change can be made.

It was a good decision. The Secretary lives in Tulsa but works about a hundred miles away in Oklahoma City. As a result of the interlock order, he is able to do his job, but the public is protected from another incident of drunk driving.

Ignition Interlocks: Better Than License Suspension

Ignition interlocks are valuable, and not just in hardship cases. They are preferable to license suspensions, particularly long ones, because:

  • Suspensions simply don’t work. Half to three-quarters of suspended drivers drive anyway. That includes a lot of impaired drivers who will be uninsured.
  • Suspensions have damaging and counter-productive repercussions. If you take away offenders driving privileges, you might also be taking away their job, scuttling their education, and rendering them unable to provide for their family. Laws and punishments should serve social goals, not create social problems.

Some people are resistant to the idea of ignition interlocks instead of suspensions because it doesn’t seem a punitive enough measure. But that’s a short-sighted way to look at things. Offenders who use ignition interlocks don’t reoffend while the device is installed, and it costs the government little, since the fees are borne by the offender. Other measures, such as fines or community service, can be added when it’s clear that punishment is advisable.

But neither Mr Doerflinger nor others under an Oklahoma DUI suspension are “getting away” with anything if they are driving with ignition interlocks. Quite the opposite: they’re being held strictly to a promise of sober driving, and are being tracked and recorded to ensure that the promise is kept. Not a bad use of technology, all told.