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Oklahoma Requires Interlocks for First-Time DUI Offenders

Oklahoma has passed a new law requiring ignition interlocks for drivers convicted of DUI with a high blood alcohol content, even for the first offense. According to the Pryor Daily Times, the new law, entitled the Erin Swezey Act, is named for a 20-year-old college student who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. The driver who caused Swezey's death had several prior DUI convictions in addition to citations for driving with a suspended or revoked license. At the time of the accident, he was fleeing another accident he had caused and was traveling more than 100 mph in the wrong direction when his car struck Swezey's head-on. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was three times the legal limit.

Requirments for Ignition Interlock Devices

The accident sparked public criticism over the fact that the Oklahoma judges had discretion as to whether to require an ignition interlock device for convicted DUI offenders. The new law requires mandates judges to require interlock devices for any DUI conviction where the driver's blood alcohol content is .15 or higher, even for first-time offenders. The interlock will be required for 18 months for first-time offenders; second-time offenders will be required to use an interlock for four years if their BAC exceeds .08. Any additional DUI convictions will result in the use of an interlock for five years.

Oklahoma License Marked Interlock Required

Oklahoma now also requires that the driver's licenses of any motorists who are required to have an interlock be marked with the notice "Interlock Required." The new license notice will allow law enforcement officials to visually determine if the driver should have an interlock without having to run a computer check. The measure will also prevent interlock drivers from using someone else's vehicle that is not interlock-equipped. The new requirement is expected to assist employers and rental car companies to quickly determine a driver's prior record without performing an expensive national background check. The idea is to make it more difficult for convicted DUI offenders to get around the interlock requirement.

State Senator Kim David stated, "As legislators, our first priority is protecting the public's safety, and the [Erin Swezey Act] will do just that. The measure strengthens the state's drunk driving laws to help better protect motorists and hopefully deter individuals from drinking and driving."