Do I have to take a breathalyzer test?
The average resident in Oklahoma consumes less alcohol than the average resident in almost every other state, according to a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
If this statistic encourages you to relax a little the next time you’re behind the wheel, it shouldn’t.
Remarkably, Oklahoma ranks 10th in the nation in alcohol-related car accidents.
Driving under the influence in Oklahoma
You are driving under the influence (DUI) in Oklahoma if you are operating a motor vehicle within the state with:
- A blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher for adults (21 and over)
- A BAC of .02% or higher for minors (under 21)
- A BAC of .04% or higher for commercial vehicle drivers
If you’re operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.15 or higher, you can be charged with aggravated DUI.
Additionally, you can be charged with a DUI if you’re under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance to the point that it renders you incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle, regardless of your BAC.
Evidence that may be used to support a decision that you’re influenced by a substance to the point that you can’t safely operate a motor vehicle may include the following:
- Erratic driving
- Poor performance on a field sobriety test
- Slurred speech
- Odd behavior
- An admission of being impaired
|The effects of blood alcohol concentration (BAC)|
|BAC||Typical effects||Predictable effects on driving|
|.02||Some loss of judgment, relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood||A decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target) and a decline in the ability to perform 2 tasks at the same time|
|.05||Exaggerated movement, some loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, lowered alertness, the release of inhibition||Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situation|
|.08||Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired||Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception|
|.10||Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking||Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately|
|.15||Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance||Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing|
|Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration|
Driving while intoxicated in Oklahoma
The offense of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is considered a lesser offense than a DUI in Oklahoma.
As noted above, a DUI charge is typically brought when you’re driving with a BAC of .08 percent or more. A DWI charge, on the other hand, can be brought if the following conditions are met:
- You have a BAC between .05 and .08, and
- There is some additional piece of evidence that your ability to operate your vehicle is affected by alcohol or you violated a state statute or local ordinance while operating your vehicle.
Oklahoma lawmakers don’t want to see a situation where a drunk adult puts a child in danger.
In Oklahoma, a parent or guardian can be charged with child endangerment (in addition to any other applicable crime) if the parent or guardian:
- Drives a vehicle with a child inside while intoxicated, or
- Knowingly permits a child to be present in a vehicle when the parent or guardian knows the driver is under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance.
Oklahoma’s implied consent laws
Anyone who drives on Oklahoma’s roads consents to the testing of their blood, breath, and urine. If the driver is a minor, the driver’s parents or guardians are considered to have given consent.
Before administering a blood, breath, or urine test, the administering officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that the person was operating or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence.
If a person refuses to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test in Oklahoma, they face the following penalties:
|Refusal to test||1st offense||2nd offense||3rd offense|
|License suspension||180 days||1 year||3 years|
Penalties for DUI and DWI in Oklahoma
The penalties for a DUI conviction in Oklahoma depend largely on whether you have any prior offenses.
|Penalty||1st offense||2nd offense||3rd offense|
|Jail||10 days to 1 year||1-5 years||1-10 years|
|Fine||Up to $1,000||Up to $2,500||Up to $5,000|
|License suspension||180 days||1 year||3 years|
|Ignition interlock||up to 18 months||up to 4 years||up to 5 years|
With respect to a DWI, the maximum fine is $500, the maximum jail time is six months, and the maximum license suspension is one year.
Dram shop laws hold establishments that sell alcohol (restaurants, bars, theaters, etc.) responsible for serving intoxicated patrons who later cause an accident.
In Oklahoma, courts have held that injured parties can sue establishments that provide alcohol to patrons who are:
- Younger than 21 years old, or
- Noticeably intoxicated
Dram shop laws apply to establishments licensed to sell alcohol, but what if a social host (such as a parent hosting a graduation party) supplies alcohol to a minor?
Oklahoma’s social host law holds property owners liable if someone under the age of 21 drinks on their property. If someone is injured or killed as a result of being intoxicated, the property owner could be charged with a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
If you’re injured in a car accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you can file an insurance claim as you would in any other car accident. If the driver is uninsured, you can file a claim using your uninsured motorist coverage, assuming you purchased the optional insurance coverage.
You may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the intoxicated driver if:
- The insurance company doesn’t offer you enough money to settle your claim, or
- Your damages exceed your uninsured motorist coverage limits or the driver’s policy limits.
Proving that an intoxicated driver caused your accident is usually as simple as obtaining a police report indicating that the driver was intoxicated. If liability is contested, you may need to hire a personal injury attorney to help develop and prove your case.