Under a new amendment to Oklahoma’s DUI laws, drivers can be charged with drug related DUI if they are found to be driving with any amount of a Schedule I drug or its metabolites in their systems. On the surface, it sounds like a good way to discourage drugged driving. But looking at the law a little more closely reveals an unnecessary and overly restrictive legislative act.
The legal limit for alcohol-related DUI in all 50 states is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent. However, under certain conditions, a person may be charged with an alcohol-related driving offense with a much lower BAC. For example, a person can be arrested for driving while impaired (DWI) with a BAC of only 0.06 or 0.07 percent. The tolerance is even lower for commercial drivers (0.04 percent) and drivers under the age of 21, for whom “zero tolerance” is given (0.02 percent). A person can even be charged if he or she is not driving at all, if the suspect has actual physical control (APC) of a vehicle while intoxicated.
The amendment to 47 O.S. § 11-902 (a) adds a clause pertaining to zero tolerance for driving under the influence of drugs. This makes DUI-Drug illegal per se, meaning that the presence of drugs in the system is sufficient to prove the offense. Impairment need not be indicated.
Section 11-902 (a) subsection 3 now says that it is illegal for anyone to drive or have actual physical control of a vehicle who:
Has any amount of a Schedule I chemical or controlled substance, as defined in Section 2-204 of Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes, or one of its metabolites or analogs in the person’s blood, saliva, urine or any other bodily fluid at the time of a test of such person’s blood, saliva, urine or any other bodily fluid administered within two (2) hours after the arrest of such person.
Still sound okay? The critical piece of this legislation is that it includes not only the active presence of a drug, but also its metabolites. For some drugs, including marijuana, metabolites remain in the system for seven to thirty days. This means that it is entirely possible for a person to be charged with driving while under the influence of a drug a month after using the drug.
Oklahoma is known for its tough drug laws. Our prisons are already crowded with people convicted of relatively minor drug offenses. Does taking up valuable court time, further crowding our jails, and spending taxpayer dollars to penalize someone who smoked a joint last week make any sense?
Chalk this up to overzealous, meaningless legislation in an effort to appear tough on crime.
Read more about DUI and Drug laws on our criminal defense website.