New DUI law snares Oklahoma City councilman
A new Oklahoma law mandating a felony charge against arrestees with previous DUI convictions snared a high-profile subject: an Oklahoma City councilman. Ronald “Skip” Kelly was charged with felony DUI after his arrest in January in Oklahoma City, according to The Oklahoman newspaper.
Kelly was caught up under a law that took effect Nov. 1 and makes a felony charge automatic for anyone arrested on a DUI complaint within 10 years of a previous drunken driving conviction. The law was one of several changes Oklahoma lawmakers made last year to toughen punishment for DUIs.
The changes include requiring first-time DUI offenders to install interlocking ignition devices that prevent them from starting their vehicles if their blood alcohol levels register too high. The offenders’ driver’s licenses must say “Interlock required,” signaling that they cannot drive a vehicle without the device.
The Erin Elizabeth Sweeney Act also lengthens the time the ignition devices must remain on vehicles, with longer times for people with multiple convictions or more serious offenses. The law is named after a 20-year-old Edmond woman killed by a drunken driver in 2009.
Kelly faces a felony charge under the law because he previously pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI in 2009, according to The Oklahoman. His two-year deferred sentence on that charge ended in May, when his 10-year clock under the new law started.
Kelly was arrested after a police officer found him in his wrecked car. He has denied the latest charge, according to the newspaper.
Kelly could lose his council seat if convicted on the felony charge, which includes punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Offenders also must pay for possible substance abuse treatment. Kelly has said he will not resign and will serve the remainder of his term ending in 2013.