OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation to aid prosecutors in keeping drunk drivers off the road was approved today by the Oklahoma Senate.
House Bill 3146, by state Rep. Mike Sanders and state Sen. Greg Treat, creates the Impaired Driving Elimination Act (IDEA) and prohibits municipal prosecution of driving under the influence, unless a municipality has a municipal court of record. Any municipality with a population of 60,000 or more would have the option to create a court of record. Arresting municipalities would still receive a portion of the fines.
There are 354 municipal courts in Oklahoma who handle a large volume of DUI arrests, but that are not ‘courts of record.’ Oklahoma City and Tulsa are the only current municipal courts of record.
“This is an important tool for prosecutors to be able to better flag and appropriately prosecute repeat drunk drivers,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “The security of Oklahoma families when they are driving on our roads should always be a top priority in public safety.”
“This bill closes a loophole that has put Oklahomans’ lives in danger by allowing repeat drunk drivers to get multiple DUI convictions in various jurisdictions without being held accountable,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “There are 350 courts not of record in Oklahoma that don’t report DUI convictions to a statewide database. Therefore, someone could get arrested twenty or more times in multiple jurisdictions for DUI and because those convictions aren’t put on their record they’re treated like a first time offender and receive only minimal punishment.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2010 Oklahoma ranked as the 46th worst state for impaired driving deaths and the 51st (including states and territories) for improvement over the previous 10-year period (NHTSA, 2012).
“This legislation marks a watershed in the history of impaired driving in Oklahoma,” said Toby Taylor, Chairman of the Governor’s Impaired Driving Prevention Advisory Council, “by creating accountability for every impaired driving arrest in Oklahoma and providing law enforcement with a much needed tool to identify those individuals who are repeat impaired driving offenders. This is a critical piece of the puzzle in our efforts to reduce the incidence of impaired driving related traffic crashes in Oklahoma.”
Several legislators also praised the legislation.
“Drunk driving can result in terrible tragedy and repeat drunk drivers are among the most dangerous,” said Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, a former prosecutor. “This legislation fixes a system in which many repeat offenders were flying under the radar and allows us to catch more of them.”
“It is hard to overstate what a victory this is for public safety,” said state Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “Thousands of DUIs are falling through the cracks that could be used to get repeat offenders off the road. Congratulations to Representative Sanders and Senator Treat for working to get bipartisan support behind this legislation’s passage.”
“Repeat drunk drivers are individuals who are dangerous to the rest of us and who are unlikely to reform their ways without intervention,” said state Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso. “This loophole needed to be closed so we can get these individuals off the road.”
“This is the most significant advancement made in recent history in making our streets and highways safer from drunk or impaired drivers,” said state Rep. Ben Loring, D-Miami. “It closes a huge gaping hole in the area of public safety. Representative Sanders and Senator Treat deserve credit for leading on this issue. This proposal, once signed into law, will save lives.”
The legislation was approved unanimously and now proceeds to the governor’s office to be signed into law.