What Evidence Is Needed For An Oklahoma DUI Conviction?
If you’ve ever served on a jury or even watched a crime TV show, you’ve probably heard a judge advise jury members that the defendant is “innocent until proven guilty.” In the American justice system, the legal burden of proof is on the state. That means if the state can’t prove you’re guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” then you are innocent.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a DUI, you’re probably wondering how this applies to you. What evidence is needed for a DUI conviction in Oklahoma? How does the state prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt”? We have answers.
What Does the State Need to Prove?
In any criminal case, the state needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime being charged. In Oklahoma, Title 47, Section 47 describes the elements of a DUI, DWI, or actual physical control charge. In short, the state must prove you:
- Were driving, operating, or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within the state; and
- Upon public roads, highways, streets, turnpikes, other public places, or a private road that provides access to houses; and
- Had a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more; or
- Were under the influence of alcohol; or
- Had any amount of a Schedule I chemical or controlled substance in your blood, saliva, or urine; or
- Were under the influence of any intoxicating substance other than alcohol (including prescription drugs); or
- Were under the combined influence of alcohol and any other intoxicating substance.
What Is the Evidence Needed for a DUI Conviction?
Remember, the state needs to prove each element of its case against you. If it can’t prove you were (1) driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a public road, and (2) were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the case can be dismissed. Let’s go over the evidence they’ll present for each part of the case.
Driving a Motor Vehicle on a Public Road
There are a few things to break down when it comes to this element of the case:
- “Driving” means “operating a motor vehicle while it is in motion.” But the vehicle doesn’t have to be in motion. “Actual physical control” means you could “direct or influence the motor vehicle,” even if it isn’t currently in motion.
- A “motor vehicle” is broadly defined as “any motor-driven vehicle with wheels.” That means you can get a DUI when you’re not driving a car.
Proving this element of the case can be relatively easy for the state, as courts tend to believe the testimony of the arresting officer. They will simply testify that they witnessed you driving erratically or committing a traffic violation on a public road.
While Under the Influence of an Intoxicating Substance
Proving that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol is where the evidence needed for a DUI conviction becomes a little trickier. The state has a few different methods for proving this element of the case:
- A breathalyzer or blood test showing a BAC of 0.08 or more
- Failure of a field sobriety test
- Alcohol or drugs found near or in your vehicle, especially open alcohol containers
- Testimony of the arresting officer, for example that they smelled alcohol on your breath
Keep in mind that under Oklahoma’s implied consent law, you have already given consent to take a breath or blood test just by driving on the state’s roads. If you refuse, they can still proceed with the case against you, because they don’t necessarily need these test results to prove your guilt.
However, what many people don’t know is that breathalyzers may not be as accurate as they’re led to believe. There are strict rules around administering both breathalyzers and blood tests, and this evidence can be thrown out if:
- The officer didn’t have reasonable cause to test you or search your vehicle.
- The breathalyzer isn’t calibrated correctly – one of the most common causes of too-high BAC results.
- The officer doesn’t administer the test correctly: They must make sure you have nothing in your mouth and wait at least 15 minutes before giving you the breathalyzer.
- The officer didn’t have a Breath Alcohol Operator Permit, or the blood test wasn’t taken and analyzed by licensed personnel.
- The blood test wasn’t analyzed at an authorized lab or the chain of custody wasn’t maintained (which means the record of where it was at any given time isn’t accurate).
There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to this part of your DUI case, and an experienced attorney can help you determine if any of the above applies to you.
How to Defend Against DUI Evidence
While these types of cases seem straightforward, the evidence needed for a DUI conviction can actually be challenged in many ways. That’s why it’s essential to get an experienced DUI lawyer who can help you:
Get All the Evidence
One of the most important things in a DUI case is to ensure you know the strength of the state’s case. Under the law, you have a right to know every piece of evidence the state has, including anything that might benefit your case. Your attorney will use the discovery process, which is a formal process of requesting evidence, to get the information you need for your defense. This might include the:
- Police report
- Identity of any witnesses
- Testimony from witnesses and the arresting officer
- Results of the breathalyzer or blood test
- Photos or other documentation that will be entered as evidence
Form Your Defense Strategy
The evidence needed for a DUI conviction may be similar, but the details of every case are unique. Your attorney will be able to evaluate the strength of the state’s case and determine the best strategy to move forward. Your defense strategy might include:
- Challenging the traffic stop or search of your vehicle
- Getting certain evidence thrown out
- Questioning the testimony against you
- Arguing for leniency if you’re a first-time offender
Negotiate the Best Outcome
A DUI is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. There are plenty of options, especially for first-time offenders, including:
- Getting your DUI dismissed: If you can prove the officer didn’t have probable cause to pull you over or the test results aren’t reliable, you can get your case dismissed.
- A deferred sentence: This means you plead guilty and you’re sentenced to probation. When you complete probation, your case will be dismissed and partially expunged.
- A suspended sentence: This means you plead guilty and are sentenced to jail time, but the judge “suspends” the sentence so that you can serve probation. If you complete probation, your case is dismissed. But if you violate probation, they can send you to jail.
- Pleading to a reduced charge: Charges like driving while impaired (DWI) or reckless driving carry lighter penalties than a DUI or DUI-Drugs.
The Bottom Line
Even if it seems like the state has the evidence needed for a DUI conviction, these cases often aren’t as straightforward as they seem. You may be able to challenge the evidence against you or negotiate a plea deal, but you’ll need an experienced attorney to help you. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, the best thing you can do is be respectful, but don’t answer any questions that could incriminate you. Then, contact us immediately for a free case evaluation.