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New law to make drunk drivers face full consequences

Generally speaking, repeat DUI offenders face more serious charges as their behavior continues. This is done in hopes that the threat of a felony criminal record and jail time will deter individuals from continuing to break the law. However, if the threat of more serious consequences is not upheld, what is to stop an individual from continuing their unlawful behavior? It is this exact question that may have led Oklahoma officials to question the record-keeping of many of the state's municipalities.

A new law signed into action by Oklahoma's governor will finally close the loophole that allowed many drunk drivers a way out of facing the full consequences of their offenses. Before this newly passed law, some 354 municipalities in Oklahoma were not equipped to handle charges more serious than misdemeanors. To do so, each municipality would have to have a court of records, keeping track of escalating offenses that may eventually turn into felonies. However, until recently this was not the case. Only a few municipalities had a court of records capable of processing escalating offenses.

In the municipalities where there is no court of records, an individual could have multiple DUI offenses but still avoid a felony charge. This was the case for the drunk driver that hit the wife of the Oklahoma representative that introduced this bill. According to the representative, his wife was stopped when a drunk driver rear-ended her going 40 miles an hour. The driver of that car was found to have four recent DUI offenses, all with in the previous five months, and received a sixth DUI a week after hitting the representative's wife. It is this event that prompted the representative to seek a change by introducing this new legislation.

In 2015, 154 people were killed by drunk drivers on Oklahoma roads. This number, however alarming, does not represent the many others that are injured by drunk driver negligence. While this legislation will make it easier to convict repeat DUI offenders, family members and victims of these negligent actions may still want to work with an attorney to ensure they receive the compensation they need to recover.

Source: NewsOK.com, "Oklahoma law to close drunken driving loophole," Rick Green, Apr. 25, 2016

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