Navigating the difficult waters of keeping your driver’s license (DL) after being arrested for DUI or Actual Physical Control (APC) can be very difficult. The rules and regulations are confusing even to experienced criminal defense attorneys. This post will talk about some of the most common issues surrounding a typical Oklahoma case. Remember, this is general advice. Every case is different, so consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately after being arrested.
- Your DL case is NOT your criminal case. Although they sometimes can affect each other (like if you get a conviction for DUI/APC), it is not always the case. The DL case is considered a civil matter and is handled by the state Department of Public Safety. The criminal case is handled by either the municipal attorney or the county District Attorney. The rules are different. The timelines are different. The potential penalties are drastically different. Make sure you know what is entailed in each case so you don’t screw something up.
- Although your first court date in the criminal case may be a week or so later, there is a strict 15 day deadline to apply for an administrative hearing to attempt to save your DL. If you do not request an administrative hearing, in writing to DPS, within this 15 days, you will automatically lose your license 30 days after your arrest. This is clearly stated on the officer’s affidavit you were given at the time of arrest. It is even bolded on most forms, although in very small letters. Do not miss this date. In some cases where the deadline has passed I can eventually get you a modified license to drive, but it usually takes several weeks and additional time and expense.
- For a first time DUI/APC where you blow between a .08 and a .14, you are looking at a potential DL suspension of 6 months. We can apply for a “modified” license and you will be allowed to drive your personal vehicle, as long as you have a breathalyzer installed. If you refuse (against my advice) or you blow a .15 or higher, your license will be suspended for 6 months, PLUS you will also be required to have a breathalyzer in your vehicle for 18 additional, consecutive months before you will be fully reinstated.
- For a second DUI/APC you are typically looking at a one year modifiable suspension PLUS 4 additional years of the breathalyzer in your vehicle.
- What you are ultimately charged with, or plead to, in criminal court with has no effect on whether or not you still have to deal with DPS for your DL. I have had several cases where people were arrested for DUI/APC and the charges were ultimately something else such as Public Intox. because the cop screwed up, I got the case reduced or dismissed, or the ADA was in a rare mood of cutting them a break. The only thing that matters is what you were ARRESTED for. If you ignore the officer’s affidavit, like many of my clients, your license will still be suspended even if the cop screwed up and you weren’t guilty of DUI and there is nothing I can do about it. That is why requesting the hearing within 15 days is so important.
- Your criminal case is often finished well ahead of your driver’s license case, especially if it is a misdemeanor. The average misdemeanor DUI/APC takes about 6 months to resolve from arrest to plea. The average felony DUI takes a little over a year. The average DPS case takes anywhere from 1 to 2 years and sometimes even longer. This means you may think you are done hearing from me and then a year later I send you a letter informing you of the administrative hearing.
- If you lose the administrative hearing, we can still appeal to the District Court for an additional fee. This will stay your DL suspension, and you live to drive for a few more weeks at least.
- Sometime soon I will have a post about CDLs, but suffice to say, unless you are found not guilty, get your case dismissed without costs, or reduced to a non revocable, usually non moving, violation prior to plea (which is really, really rare), your CDL will be suspended for at least a year.
The moral of this story is to immediately contact an attorney after being arrested. Remember, this post does not create an attorney/client relationship. Contact an experienced attorney in your area for more detailed advice.