Traffic accidents caused by motorists under the influence of drugs or alcohol kill more than 200 people in Oklahoma each year, which is why law enforcement agencies enforce the state’s impaired driving laws aggressively. Most motorists in the Sooner State face drunk driving charges after toxicology testing reveals that they consumed alcohol, but getting behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs or prescription medications can also lead to a DUI charge. When alcohol is discovered in a driver’s system, their blood alcohol concentration is used to determine whether should be charged with driving while impaired or driving while under the influence.
DWI and DUI charges
Drivers in Oklahoma are charged with DWI when breath tests reveal that they were behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration of at least .05 but less than .08. However, motorists charged with DWI can only be convicted if the prosecutor can prove that their impaired condition made them a threat to the public. When the toxicology evidence reveals that a driver had a BAC of .08 or higher, they are considered legally intoxicated and additional evidence is not required. This level of impairment or any trace of a Schedule I controlled substance will lead to a DUI charge and far more serious penalties. Drivers with BACs of .15 or higher can be charged with aggravated DUI.
Drunk driving penalties in Oklahoma
Individuals convicted of violating Oklahoma’s drunk driving laws face fines, jail time and a loss of their driving privileges, and the penalties are even more severe for repeat offenders. Motorists convicted of DUI or aggravated DUI for a second or subsequent time can be fined as much as $5,000 and sent to jail for up to 10 years. Their driver’s licenses are also revoked for at least three years.
Challenging toxicology evidence
While these penalties are severe, proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt can be difficult in DUI or aggravated DUI cases if breath or blood test results are challenged. This can happen when a clear chain of custody cannot be established for blood samples or the equipment used to measure BACs was inadequately maintained or improperly calibrated. Drunk driving suspects may also question the validity of toxicology evidence if they suffer from one or more of the medial conditions that have been known to influence breath test results.