OKLAHOMA CITY – The governor on Tuesday signed into law a bill that strengthens the role of victims’ impact panels in helping to stop driving under the influence (DUI) offenses in Oklahoma and will help reduce the number of repeat offenders.
House Bill 2877, by House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, was a request by victims’ impact panel programs currently operating in Oklahoma. It follows up on successful DUI legislation Sanders has passed in 2016 that strengthened prosecution of repeat drunk drivers by creating the Impaired Driving Elimination Act, moving all DUI cases to a court of record, ensuring district attorneys statewide would have access to records of DUI offenses.
“I’ve fought much of my legislative career to curb the horrible crime of driving under the influence, which leaves death and devastation in its wake,” Sanders said. “This law ensures that those offenders who commit this crime will now have to face their victims or even worse the family members of those victims who were killed as a result of their actions,” Sanders said. “This strategy has proven to be 90 percent effective in our state, and it will save lives.”
Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, is the Vice Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Senate author of HB 2877.
“This is an important measure that is going to make Oklahoma roads safer and save lives. We have too many cases of repeat DUI offenders and we’ve got to stop that,” Paxton said. “House Bill 2877 will also make sure that Oklahoma’s impact panels are legitimate and following all necessary rules and regulations. I want to thank my legislative colleagues for supporting and Governor Stitt for signing this important public safety measure into law.”
The legislation accomplishes three things:
First, it puts teeth in the enforcement of current statutory requirements for operating a victims’ impact panel. The District Attorney’s Council now will collect information and certify the panels by ensuring they meet all statutory requirements and operate properly.
Second, the bill ensures that all defendants are being sent to a victim’s impact panel and standardizes the sentencing requirements statewide.
The bill also makes the fee for a victim/offender reconciliation program and Victims’ Impact Panel program a flat $75 instead of the sliding scale that now exists across the state.
Sanders said victims’ impact panels have to pay a $1,000 filing fee and the fee helps offset that and the cost of services provided. Equalizing the fee throughout the state ensures residents in rural areas will have access to such panels without having to make a long drive to attend.