Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Ignition Interlock Law

oklahoma-dui-law-held-upIt was supposed to take effect today: last June the governor of Oklahoma signed the Impaired Driving Elimination Act 2. But a few days ago the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw a monkey wrench into the process by suspending the law from taking effect. In doing so, the court is slowing down the pace of the state’s effort to reduce its rate of alcohol-related road deaths.

How the Oklahoma DUI Law Could Help

The Impaired Driving Elimination Act 2 would have let offenders charged with DUI waive the the administrative appeals (note: administrative, not criminal) process. If they took that option, they would be given the choice of an ignition interlock on their vehicle and participating in the IDAP program (described below). Or, if they preferred, they could await their criminal trial.

The new Oklahoma DUI law would have given all DUI offenders access to ignition interlocks, currently the most effective measures in existence for preventing repeat drunk driving. The IDAP (Impaired Driver Accountability Program) offered alcohol treatment for offenders, required offenders to submit proof of installation of an ignition interlock, and required no failed interlock breath tests for the last 60 days of the program.

What Went Wrong?

All in all, the new law is a good and cost-effective set of measures for preventing drunk drivers from reoffending. But four DUI law firms sued to keep the law off the books, claiming that it’s unconstitutional for any law to allow a defendant to give up his or her right of appeal.

Not so. The Impaired Driving Elimination Act 2 does not compel anyone to give up the right of appeal. It merely allows DUI offenders to waive an administrative appeal, install an interlock, save a lot of money, and get on with life. Offenders do not give up the right to a criminal trial and the resulting appeal. However, if they want to, they can exit the system sooner and resume their lives – without a lot of legal bills.

Why The Law Should Stand

Other states have similar processes to the one Oklahoma has proposed, and other Supreme Courts have upheld the related laws. DUI offenders should have the option of skipping an expensive administrative process if they choose to. It’s a practical decision, based on the desire to save on legal fees and get back on the road faster.

We predict that eventually the new Oklahoma DUI law will go through, and the state will have more drivers in the interlock program, where they can drive unimpaired and get their lives back together.