Oklahoma DUI Court Differences
ROADMAP TO OKLAHOMA COURTS
Administrative Hearing vs. Criminal Case
Municipal Court vs. District Court
I have lived my life, and I have fought my battles,
not against the weak and the poor–anybody can do that–
but against power, against injustice, against oppression,
and I have asked no odds from them, and I never shall.
CLARENCE S. DARROW
Administrative vs. Criminal
In every DUI case, there are actually two separate proceedings or cases involved. The first case deals with the criminal proceedings. This will take place in the criminal courts and the proceedings will be conducted either in the state district court or in the municipal court where you were arrested. This is the portion of the DUI case where the state or city authorities are trying to take away your liberty and possibly, in some circumstances, place you in jail for up to twenty years. The criminal portion drives itself in that the court will set mandatory court dates and notify the defendant when he must appear. This will happen regardless of any action taken by the defendant.
The second case resulting from a DUI arrest is the administrative proceedings. The State of Oklahoma will suspend your license for a minimum of six months and possibly up to three years if you refused to submit to a chemical test for intoxicants or if you submitted and the test showed a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or more. The suspension is automatic and begins thirty days after you are served notice of the revocation. This notice is usually given at the jail when you were arrested. The notice is contained on the Officer’s Affidavit and Notice of Revocation. Additionally, you may be required to install an interlock on your vehicle for up to eight years depending on the facts of your individual case.
The only way to prevent this license suspension is to request an administrative hearing within 15 days of the service of notice. If this hearing is not requested within the 15 days, there is not anything that can be done to prevent license suspension. Once the hearing is requested, it will put on hold any revocation action until the hearing is held and a ruling is made. The actual proceedings of the Department of Public Safety and appeal rights are covered separately.
District Court vs. Municipal Court
In Oklahoma, your driving under the influence charge can be prosecuted either in the state district court or in the city municipal court. Usually the decision of which court you will be prosecuted in lies initially with the arresting police officer. Some officers do not have any discretion as to which court you will be assigned. Oklahoma State Troopers and County Deputies do not have jurisdiction to send their charges to the municipal court. All arrests made by them have to be prosecuted in state courts. Municipal police officers have the discretion to keep your charge in the city or refer your charge to the state district court. In making the decision, the officer will consider if you have any prior criminal cases, the seriousness of the charge, your demeanor, and your level of sobriety at the time of arrest.
Oklahoma has a statute that requires city police officers to take DUI charges to state district court if you have had a prior municipal DUI charge. There is a distinction for municipal Courts of Records. The only two municipal Courts of Records in Oklahoma are the City of Tulsa and the City of Oklahoma City. This statute was passed several years ago in an attempt to prevent the municipal courts from continuously keeping DUI charges in the municipal court system for financial reasons.
If your charge is a municipal charge, it is a misdemeanor charge. Felonies can only be prosecuted in the state district court. After the officer decides where to send the charge, the city attorney or the state prosecutor will review the charge and decide what charges will be filed. Occasionally, a city attorney will decline to file a charge presented by the police officer. In these cases, the city attorney has reviewed your record and has declined the charge so that it may be referred to the state district court for prosecution.
Almost always it is better for your charge to be in the municipal or city court. The fines and court costs as well as the probationary period will be less. Also, unless you are in Oklahoma City or Tulsa Municipal court, the charge cannot be used to increase future DUI arrests to a felony charge.