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New drunk driving laws toughen penalties for repeat offenders

Earlier this month, a new law went into effect that may make the job of defense attorneys more challenging. Oklahoma municipal courts now have the option of creating a court of record to handle drunk driving offenses. Many applaud this move as a way to prevent the injuries and deaths associated with DUI accidents. However, repeat offenders may find themselves targeted.

There are only two courts of record in the 354 municipal courts that handle Oklahoma's DUI cases. The other municipalities do not record their proceedings. This means that when repeat offenders are arrested, there is no record of their previous convictions. Because of this, they may repeatedly receive the penalty of first-time offenders.

The new law was conceived after the wife of an Oklahoma state representative was hit by a drunk driver who had been arrested for DUI five times in the previous five months. Just a week after the accident, the man was arrested a sixth time for the same charge. Municipalities will be connected by a database of every DUI arrest in the state. District attorneys are encouraged to prosecute offenders appropriately, which may include requiring alcohol treatment plans.

Oklahoma frequently ranks among the worse states for drunk driving accidents resulting in deaths. Representatives hope to improve the state's status as the worst in the country for reducing fatal DUI accidents. While the law is hailed as a triumph for highway safety, DUI defense attorneys may be welcoming many more clients who deserve to have their rights defended in the light of this zealous new campaign.

Source: tulsabeacon.com, "New law is seeking to keep drunk drivers off the road", Nov. 10, 2016

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