Sometimes a DUI is just a DUI– but sometimes it results in a murder charge

Jacqui Ford has represented dozens of Oklahoma citizens facing charges for driving under the influence, or DUIs. In the best case scenario, these clients are able to get off with probation, a restricted license, and a small fine.

But when tragedy strikes, the consequences for driving under the influence can be much steeper. In 2018 alone, 145 Oklahomans were killed by alcohol-impaired drivers– higher than the national average.

If your Oklahoma DUI results in a death, you could be facing felony charges up to second-degree murder. Luckily, all hope is not lost. Experienced DUI attorneys like those at Jacqui Ford Law can help you build a defense and demonstrate to the court that you are driving more responsibly in exchange for a less severe sentence.

Below, our team has put together a rundown of everything you need to know when a DUI becomes more than just a DUI.

DUIs in Oklahoma

Under 47 O.S. § 11-902 of Oklahoma law, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, or under the influence of any other intoxicating substance that may impair your ability to drive.

You may be charged with a DUI if any of these three things are true:

  • You’re over 21 and have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or more
  • You’re under the influence of a Schedule I drug, narcotic, or both alcohol and a Schedule I drug or narcotic
  • You’re under 21 and have any alcohol or drug in your system at all

The .08 limit applies to DUIs, but you can actually be charged with a DWI if your BAC is above .05. DWI stands for driving while impaired, and carries lighter penalties than a DUI.

A first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor, and can result in a suspended or restricted license, up to $1,000 in fines, and up to a year in jail. Any DUI conviction after that is considered a felony, and will result in harsher sentences and stricter fines.

Higher charges when DUIs lead to death

A regular DUI or DWI charge usually results when you’re pulled over for intoxicated driving, or involved in an unserious accident. However, when someone is seriously injured or killed because of your intoxicated driving, you could be facing some serious felony charges.

Here are 4 of the charges you might face in Oklahoma if your DUI results in a death:

  • Negligent homicide occurs when the defendant is driving in reckless disregard for the safety of others, and that reckless driving results in someone else’s death. A first-time negligent homicide offense, like a DUI, is a misdemeanor, which means it can only result in up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • Second-degree manslaughter occurs when an unlawful death is caused by the defendant’s culpable negligence. As a felony, second-degree manslaughter is a more serious charge than negligent homicide, and can result in 2-4 years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
  • First-degree manslaughter occurs when a death is the direct result of the defendant committing a misdemeanor. It is much more serious than either of the previous two crimes, and is punishable by a minimum of four years in prison.
  • Second-degree murder occurs when the defendant unintentionally caused someone else’s death while acting with a “depraved mind” in “extreme disregard for human life.” In the case of a DUI, driving under the influence in a dangerous manner could be considered acting in extreme disregard for human life. This felony is punishable by a minimum of ten years and up to life in prison.

Which of these crimes you’re charged with, if any, will depend on the circumstances of your accident and probably your level of intoxication.

What to do if you’re charged with a DUI, or something worse

As you can see, being charged for a DUI-related death can result in serious consequences. There are certain things you can do to learn from this experience and prevent a conviction from derailing the rest of your life.

The most important step you need to take after being charged with DUI-related murder or manslaughter is to contact a criminal defense attorney with experience representing people charged with both murder and DUIs. At Jacqui Ford Law, our attorneys know how to mediate between you and the court to help reduce your sentence, or even have the conviction reduced to a less serious crime.

Contact Jacqui Ford Law about your DUI charge today

Don’t let the severity of the US legal system prevent you from learning from your mistakes and moving on with your life. Contact Jacqui Ford Law today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.

Oklahoma City’s DUI Laws Explained

It’s illegal in every state to drive under the influence, and Oklahoma is no exception. Sure, you may think that you can handle it, that you’ve driven drunk before and that you’re the exception to the rule, but every driver under the influence, no matter how experienced a drink or driver, is a danger to themselves and others when behind the wheel. If you’re driving under the influence in Oklahoma City, you’re not only risking an accident and injury, but arrests, fines, suspension of your driver’s license, and even jail time.

First, what exactly is a DUI?

Driving under the influence includes, but isn’t limited to “drunk driving.” In Oklahoma, someone is driving under the influence if:

  • They’re over 21 and have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or more,
  • They’re under the influence of a Schedule I drug, narcotic, or both alcohol and a Schedule I drug or narcotic, or
  • They’re under 21 and have any alcohol or drug in their system.

What if you’re behind the wheel, but the car isn’t moving?

No dice. In Oklahoma, this is not a loop hole you can jump through. Oklahoma’s drunk driving laws state that you can’t “be in actual physical control” of a vehicle while intoxicated. This means that you can’t sit behind the wheel of a parked car with the keys in your hand or ignition if you’re intoxicated because you can cause the car to move as you choose, meaning that you have actual physical control of the vehicle.

This may not make sense on its face. After all, isn’t the law against driving under the influence? Drunk drivers may not always be arrested when they’re actually driving the car. They may have already moved from point A to point B but were intoxicated at the time. By making actual physical control while under the influence illegal, the state can exercise broader powers over drivers who may drink or use drugs.

What are the consequences of a conviction for DUI in Oklahoma?

DUI is a misdemeanor for the first offense. All others after that are felonies. The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is primarily that a misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, while a felony is punishable by at least a year.

An arrest record. You will be brought to jail and your mug shot will be taken. You may have seen other people’s mug shots online. That could be you someday.

A criminal record. If you’re convicted of DUI, you’ll have at least a misdemeanor record. You may not be asked about your convictions on job applications, but they can hamper your ability to work, live, or volunteer in certain places for the rest of your life.

License restriction, suspension, or revocation. You may have your driver’s license restricted, suspended, or in some cases, revoked all together. Oklahoma shares driving records with almost every other state, so if your license is currently suspended or has been revoked in Oklahoma, you probably won’t be able to be licensed in another state.

Fines. Fines for DUI start at $1000 for the first offense, and if you don’t pay them, they collect interest. If you don’t pay your fines, you’ll not only owe the fines plus interest, you may be arrested and jailed.

Incarceration. The first offense, a misdemeanor, could get you ten days to a year in jail. Any other offenses within ten years of the first one are felonies, punishable by at least a year in prison, and up to 10 years for the second offense, and up to 20 for the third or more.

Probation. Probation keeps you out of prison, but you’re still required to stay completely sober, work, check in with your parole officer, and walk the line without so much as getting caught littering or you’ll go to jail.

Do you have to do a sobriety test if you’re pulled over?

In Oklahoma City, there is implied consent to sobriety tests, including field tests and breathalyzers. This means that by virtue of being licensed to drive on public roads, you have implied that you consent for the police to check your sobriety if they have reasonable suspicion that you’re under the influence.

What if you refuse to be tested?

You do have the right to refuse sobriety tests, and the police can’t force one on you. However, since you have already consented to the tests because you’re driving on the public roads (implied consent), refusing to let the police do a sobriety test means that the officer will immediately seizure driver’s license, and your license will be revoked within days. This can also be used against you as evidence if you’re tried in court for DUI.

Have you been arrested for DUI?

There are many defenses to DUI, and the particularly facts matter.

Contact Jacqui Ford Law to help you defend yourself against a charge of DUI.