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Oklahoma Supreme Court rules DUI breath test affidavits wrongly worded

The Century Council reports that in 2011, 14,563 people were arrested for drunk driving in the state of Oklahoma.
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    January 24, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Being arrested, charged and convicted of drinking and driving in Oklahoma City can come with serious consequences. These consequences include thousands of dollars in fines, license revocation, jail time, loss of income, lost employment and suspended license. In 2011, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the state of Oklahoma passed new laws that require the use of ignition interlocks for repeat convictions and for DUI convictions involving a blood alcohol content level of .15 or higher.

The Century Council reports that in 2011, 14,563 people were arrested for drunk driving in the state of Oklahoma. The number of underage drinkers was 166. It is unknown how many licenses were revoked by the Oklahoma Department of Motor Vehicles that year because of a DUI conviction.

Affidavits and the breath test

In Oklahoma, when someone is given a breath test, an affidavit is used as a form of evidence that the person was driving over the legal limit and therefore, their license should be revoked. However, Insurance Journal reports that up through October of this year, the language of the affidavit was written in a way that provided details of how the traffic stop and subsequent arrest was made, how the driver was behaving and that the officer is swearing all of the information in the affidavit is correct.

This is quite different from state law, which says that the affidavit should be worded to the effect that there was reasonable belief a person was driving under the influence of alcohol. In October, the wording of the affidavit was changed to match the law.

Legal technicality voids license revocations

Between 2008 and October of this year, it is estimated that thousands of people in the state lost their license through the use of the incorrectly worded affidavits. Six people decided to sue the state over the technicality, claiming that the revocation of their licenses was based on a document that did not adhere to state law.

The case made its way through the judicial system to the state's Supreme Court and the justices recently ruled in favor of the plaintiff's argument. The case has generated lawsuits that seek refunds for any driver whose license was revoked, as a result of the affidavit, and is seeking a class action status. This means that thousands of people could receive a refund from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

DUI defense

Part of a DUI defense plan looks at every aspect of a person's arrest, making sure that the state's laws are being followed. This means that the investigation should look at whether the method in which a breath test is administered was faulty, if officers had a good reason to pull the person over and determine if the person's civil rights were violated during the stop, arrest and investigation by law enforcement.

Even a technicality can have a large impact on a DUI case. Therefore, people accused of drunk driving should meet with an experienced attorney for legal advice.

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