An Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling could mean the state Department of Public Safety must refund at least $11 million to drivers in alcohol-related cases.
The Court earlier has rejected DPS’ appeal of a lower court ruling that said affidavits used in DUI breath tests did not comply with state law. The affidavits have since been changed, but more than 37,000 drivers arrested for alcohol-related offenses from June 2008 until October could receive refunds of fees related to the revocation and reinstatement of their driver’s licenses.
DPS charges $175 to reinstate a driver’s license after an alcohol-related driving offense and about $300 to modify the length of the revocation.
The case involves six people, but DPS says the decision could apply to thousands of drivers statewide.
Attorneys who brought the case have requested class-action status in lawsuits filed in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties seeking refunds for all drivers whose licenses were revoked between 2008 and October 2013, when the affidavit language was changed.
“We are pleased and think it was by far the legally correct decision,” Bruce Edge, a Tulsa attorney representing drivers in the case, told the Tulsa World following the court’s 7-2 rejection of DPS’ appeal.
State law regarding license revocation requires blood-alcohol tests to include “a sworn report from a law enforcement officer that the officer had reasonable grounds to believe the arrested person drove or could have driven a car under the influence of alcohol.”
The affidavit that DPS had been using to revoke licenses in such cases since June 2008 contains a description of the driver’s behavior, circumstances of the arrest and a statement by the officer “that the foregoing is true and correct.”
Because the affidavit does not contain the language required by law, DPS revocations of the six drivers’ licenses “was premised upon findings which were erroneous as a matter of law,” states the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruling, dated Oct. 9.
Capt. George Brown, a spokesman for DPS, said because litigation is pending, “the department is not able to comment at length in the matter.
“Notwithstanding, the Department of Public Safety will comply with the applicable orders of the Court pertaining to the six cases before the Court of Civil Appeals. DPS is in the process of determining what additional revocations may be affected by those opinions and what action(s), if any, it will take as a result.”
John Hunsucker, an Oklahoma City attorney also involved in the case on behalf of the drivers, said if the lawsuits are certified as class action, attorneys will try to contact drivers who are due refunds.