A new bill is making its way through the legislature that would strengthen drunk driving laws in Oklahoma.
Senate Bill 643 hopes to reduce the number of intoxicated drivers on the road by criminalizing refusing to take a breath test.
Under current law, if someone is suspected of driving under the influence and asked to take a breath test, refusal of the test is simply a civil punishment and suspension of the driver’s license.
If the bill passes, law enforcement officers will be better able to get tests and show evidence in court to convict habitual offenders.
Despite positive feedback, some DUI lawyers are critical of the measure as refusing the test means criminal punishment but taking the test can also lead to criminal punishment. Some lawyers argue that the bill would essentially make people guilty until they prove their innocence by arresting them and filing criminal charges for not giving police evidence to use against them.
The bill would make refusing a breath test a misdemeanor punishably by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 10 days in jail as well as license revocation.
The bill would also offer an alcohol treatment program for first-time drunk driving offenders who do not cause an accident. Offenders who participate in the program could have their license suspension period cut in half to 6 months but would be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle.