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Oklahoma Supreme Court rules new drunken driving law is unconstitutional

OKLAHOMA CITY -The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that  new drunken-driving law is unconstitutional.

The Impaired Driving Elimination Act was supposed to go into effect in November. However, a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality was filed and the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked the law from going into effect until the justices could review it.

The law would have created a new program for first-time DUI offenders and abolished the appeals process for people trying to keep their licenses after being arrested for DUI. It was approved by the Legislature earlier this year and was supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

But a lawsuit filed in June by four attorneys alleged that the law is unconstitutional. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that the act denies a person the right to due process.

“This is a bill that, from its very inception, we’ve tried to warn the legislature that there were numerous problems with the bill,” said Brian Morton, a DUI attorney who is representing the four plaintiffs, told News 4 in June.

Rep. Scott Biggs (R, District 51) is one of the authors of the bill and sent News 4 this statement in June:

“It is unfortunate that a small group of attorneys, who make their living only on DUI cases would seek to put the public in harm by letting intoxicated drivers loose on our streets in order to keep putting legal fees in their pocket.

The subject of this bill is one, and only one subject, DUI reform in Oklahoma. This bill addresses the DUI epidemic in our state by setting up a diversion program for those low level, non violent offenders. It requires intoxalizers on vehicles, treatment program and offers rewards such as a driver's license back with no fees for reinstatment for those who complete the program.

For those who do not complete the diversion program, the exact same consequences for the DUI case apply for convictions of Driving with no insurance, driving while license is suspended or running a stop sign arm on school bus. At the conclusion of the criminal case if you are found guilty, have not addressed the problem with treatment, your license is suspended plain and simple.

This bill borrows the best parts from many other, valid and current law. It creates a diversion program tailored for dui cases similar to drug courts, revocation of drivers license to track with criminal case just like Driving under suspension and no insurance cases. It copies the court rules for test from both an recent US supreme court case and our own OSBI evidence standard which had been upheld time and time again.

At the end of the day the legislature created a diversion program to get DUI offenders help and turn their life around, instead of being incarcerated, paying enormous attorney fees, high court cost or turning them loose on the streets.

This bill is constitutional, and will help curb the epidemic of DUI offenders in Oklahoma. It was a GIDPAC taskforce bill, and heavily supported by Mothers against drunk driving.”

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Impaired Driving Elimination Act is unconstitutional.

According to the order, the court found that the act does violate the Due Process Clause.

"We conclude the Impaired Driving Elimination Act 2 is unconstitutional in its entirety, and we need not adjudicate petitioners' remaining claims challenging either the Act or the Governor's Executive Order," the court's opinion read.