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Oklahoma Supreme Court in DUI matter: follow the rules

Any Oklahoma resident who has experienced the harsh results that flow from a drunk driving conviction (even a charge absent a conviction, which can still yield an immediate suspension of a driver's license) knows intimately well just how stringent DUI-related penalties can be in the state.

We note on our website at the long-tenured Oklahoma City law firm of Derryberry & Naifeh, LLP, some of those stringent exactions. They include hefty fines and a potential jail term. Additionally, our site points out that "a conviction will go on your permanent record and could impact your ability o obtain certain jobs or housing in the future."

Such compelling downsides render it absolutely clear why some DUI stories end up as front-page headlines. We find one recent media focus on a DUI matter to be especially weighty and of instant relevance to many people across the state, and thus report it here.

Its bottom line: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled late last month that a state entity -- namely, the Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence -- improperly bypassed the procedures legally required to approve key pieces of equipment used in breathalyzers that calculate blood alcohol levels.

The result of that has turned out to be far from inconsequential. As noted by the board's legal counsel, about 1,000 DUI charges across the state linked with breath-test outcomes and subsequent driver's license invalidations are now on hold because of the board's failure to follow proper procedures.

The story is facially notable, of course, but also instructive for its underscoring of a point that is centrally relevant to DUI stops and arrests.

And that is this. In many instances, the "facts" in a DUI matter are not altogether straightforward or immutable. Sometimes a police officer lacks the probable cause required to even stop a motorist initially. Field sobriety tests might be improperly administered or evaluated. Testing equipment might be faulty or incorrectly calibrated. Perhaps a police officer is insufficiently trained to use breathalyzers and other testing devices.

And, as seen in the above case, procedural dictates relating to DUI matters might be undermined by state actors who improperly weigh in on legal rules and processes.

For those and additional reasons, any motorist who has been charged with a drunk driving offense in Oklahoma might reasonably want to secure the proven assistance of an experienced DUI defense attorney without delay.

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