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Proposed Oklahoma Legislation Would Criminalize Refusing Breath Test

OKLAHOMA (KFSM) — A bill that would make drunk driving laws stricter is making its way through the state legislature.

“I think there should be a law to make drunk driving more strict here because there's too many drunks on the road,” Muldrow resident Wanda Eads said.

That is exactly what Senate Bill 643 hopes to accomplish. The proposed legislation would criminalize people who refuse to take a breath test to determine if they are drunk.

“Where it is now just a refusal of the test is just a civil punishment and takes away somebody's driver's license,” Sgt. Brad Roberts explained.

Sgt. Roberts works for the Muldrow Police Department. He said if the bill passes, its provisions would be a great tool to better crack down on impaired driving.

“It will allow us to get actual tests and evidence to show in court for habitual offenders that will be aided in the court cases of impaired driving,” he said.

Some DUI attorneys are critical of the bill.

“It could be a little bit limiting because obviously, it's treated like a strict liability,” said attorney Joshua Bugeja. “If you go ahead and refuse the breathalyzer, then you're in trouble, but if you take the breathalyzer you could also be in trouble.”

Sgt. Roberts said offenders can request for a modified license, which under current law requires an ignition interlock system be installed in your vehicle, which prevents your car from starting if you’re under the influence of alcohol.

“The understanding I had from talking to people with the state is that under the new bill that they're trying to pass is that it would actually make it a criminal offense not to have that ignition interlock installed in the vehicle,” Sgt. Roberts said.

The bill would also make it a misdemeanor offense for refusing to take a breath test. Offenders could face up to a $1,000 fine and ten days in jail.

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