Oklahoma Supreme Court Determines New DUI Law Was Unconstitutional

Posted by Richard Lawson | Mar 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

When an individual has been arrested for driving under the influence in DeKalb County or elsewhere in Georgia, he or she will typically be facing two different types of proceedings simultaneously: a criminal case and an Administrative License Suspension Hearing. The latter of these typically has strict deadlines within which a driver must request a hearing or risk losing his or her license for a set period of time. Once a hearing is requested, the driver can attend and make an argument as to why the state motor vehicle division should not suspend their driver's license. Whether or not the license suspension hearing is a success will depend on the facts and circumstances of a particular case.

Like Georgia, many other states have license suspension hearings. However, one state--Oklahoma--recently tried to do away with these administrative proceedings. The bill, S.B. 643, was signed into law in June 2017 and, according to The Tulsa World, “would have abolished the administrative appeal process for license suspensions and revocations for those cited for driving under the influence.”

This past December the Oklahoma Supreme Court weighed in on the issue after a group of DUI attorneys filed suit against the governor and various other government officials contending that the new law was unconstitutional.

The attorneys, called petitioners by the court, had four claims before the court: two which attacked “the constitutionality of Oklahoma Senate Bill No. 643, the Impaired Driving Elimination Act 2” and two that attacked “the constitutionality of the Governor's Executive Order . . . designed implement a portion of S.B. No. 643.” The Supreme Court considered all claims and, inter alia, found that the new law was unconstitutional.

The court took issue with several things including a section of the Act that would have eliminated the appeals process for license revocation following an arrest for having a prohibited amount of alcohol in the blood while driving. The court pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court had long since held that “revocation of a driver's license must conform to the Due Process Clause.” The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed and stated that a driver's license was also equally protected by the state constitution. It held “[w]e must conclude S.B. 643 amending [the current law] and requiring seizure and destruction of a driver's license violates the Due Process Clause of the State Constitution.”

Another issue that arose was dealt with a provision in the Oklahoma Constitution that limits legislative acts to “one subject.” Petitioners argued that S.B. No. 643 dealt with multiple subjects and, again, the court agreed, finding that the law went beyond the scope of a single topic. The court also determined that the remaining portions of the law that had not been found to be unconstitutional could not be severed and stand on their own. As the entire law was declared invalid, the court did not reach the issues that had been raised relating to the Governor's Executive Order as the order had been issued so as to enforce the new law.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard S. Lawson is passionate about intoxicated driving defense. Unlike some attorneys, Mr. Lawson devotes 100% of his legal practice to helping people stand up for their rights against DUI charges. For more than 20 years, Mr. Lawson has dutifully fought for his clients' freedom, resolving more 4,900 impaired driving cases during the course of his career. Today, Mr. Lawson has developed a reputation as a skilled negotiator and continues to help clients by fighting to keep them out of jail.


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