Oklahoma Gets DUI Ducks in a Row: New Law Tracks Repeat Offenders
The Impaired Driving Elimination Act, just put into effect, moves all DUI cases from municipal non-courts to courts of record. That means that DUI offenders will be tracked – if they reoffend, law enforcement and courts will be able to find their previous offenses, so they will be charged correctly.
Previously, some DUI offenders were getting away with too-lenient consequences because prosecutors could not locate records of previous offenses, because those DUIs had been prosecuted in municipal non-courts which kept no records.
That makes a difference, for in Oklahoma, as in other states, the punishments vary widely depending on the previous record of the DUI offender. A first offense earns a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. By the third offense, that can reach $5,000 and ten years.
Keeping Tabs on Repeat DUI Offenders: Vital
The reason for the increased penalties is that drunk driving is a serious crime as well as a social problem. Recidivism is common, and repeat offenders account for the worst of the lethal collisions. Only by addressing recidivism can a dent be made in the state’s DUI fatality numbers. In 2014 Oklahoma had 181 alcohol-related road deaths.
Keeping tabs on repeat offenders is the first step, and a vital one, in the process of controlling drunk driving. Also important is an ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Oklahoma does have an ignition interlock program, although it is only enforced for drunk drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at least .15 at the time of arrest. A better approach would be to require the devices for all offenders, and to keep the devices on until users can prove that they are able to comply with the restrictions of the device.
It is also necessary to give offenders access to treatment and supervision. Oklahoma requires assessment and intervention, if needed, after a DUI.
All of these steps will have more impact now that repeat offenders are tracked properly in the system. More offenders should end up with ignition interlocks, and should end up getting better treatment, and more appropriate fines and punishment.
Nice work, Oklahoma.