Charles Sifers, Oklahoma DUI Attorney, fights for his clients everyday
- no matter the opposition
- no matter the courthouse
- no matter the prosecutor
- no matter the judge
- no matter the evidence.
Listed here are just a few notes of success:
We Sued the Legislature AND the Governor . . . and WON!
In 2016, the legislature of Oklahoma, passed a horrendous DUI bill. I – along with some other lawyers – tried our best to convince the various Representatives and Senators to vote against this bill. When we got NOWHERE, I promised them that I would have no choice but to sue them. (See KFOR news story HERE). Well, they passed it anyway. And as promised, we SUED the Legislature AND the Governor. (See KFOR news story HERE). And, guess what? We won. Three other lawyers and I stopped the ENTIRE bill. You can check the KFOR news story HERE. Or, if you want, you can read the actual Supreme Court case HERE.
Not bad work, huh?
GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU ANNOUNCE READY FOR TRIAL
I had a DUI Bench trial scheduled to be tried. This was the first of the several DUI trials for my office set for the remainder of that year. This case was not my client’s first. He had had a couple of DUI’s prior to this one. As a result, the DA was not willing to negotiate without a conviction of the offense. So, we set if for trial. The officer’s report stated the standard stuff. However, the video did NOT confirm a lot of what was alleged in the report. In fact, the client, in MY opinion, looked pretty normal. No unsteadiness or slurred speech, as alleged in the report. No bad driving. He did NOT, however, do too well on the field tests. But, under the influence beyond a reasonable doubt? We believed no fact finder could come to that conclusion. Prior to trial, I arrived earlier and met one last time with the DA. (Actually two DA’s – he had brought in a helper) I showed him that, under the law, the OTHER 3 charges in the Information could NOT be charged against him under the circumstances of the stop, arrest, and the expected testimony of his cop. To their credit, they agreed to dismiss those, leaving only the DUI. So, I went over tot he court room to wait for my client and to do the trial on the DUI. Not more than 10 minutes past, and one of these DA’s showed up and requested that I meet with them again. I did. At this point, they conceded that a DUI might not be sustainable in trial. But, they thought a Driving While Impaired (DWI) might be. They offered to dismiss the DUI and amend the Information to a DWI. If my client would not go to trial and plead to this lesser charge, they would offer a deferred sentence (probation that results in a dismissal of the charge) and a $50 fine. A slight diversion here: A DWI is a lesser charge. It is charged when the person is impaired or affected by the alcohol he had drunk. Usually, it is a breath test of .06% or .07%. It is often the crime that a jury will find a client guilty of when the evidence doesn’t quite reach being “under the influence” and the person still shows SOME effect from his drinking, like, for instance, my client’s less-than-perfect performance on the field tests. So, it is a much lower amount of evidence to reach a guilty verdict for a DWI. And in truth, while a fact finder in this case likely would have found my client NOT GUILTY of DUI, the judge could HAVE, most certainly, found him guilty of DWI. I presented the offer to the client. I explained that the result would be that all
four charges would end up being dismissed. No jail. No conviction(s) of anything. He accepted the offer. Result? No conviction of any of the charges. And, without a trial. Moral of the story is this: Good things happen while you announce ready for trial.
AN EMAIL THAT I RECEIVED . . . . .
After an interview on TV, I have had several people comment to me about last night’s story on KFOR about the pending Bill (see my earlier blog post) to make convicted DUI offenders carry an “alcohol restricted” license prohibiting them from buying or drinking any alcohol AND to make the rest of US in Oklahoma insure that they don’t by charging us with a FELONY when we fail to do so. Mostly, though, the comments have been about the same type of comment that I received after most other news stories that I have done in the past. You know, general compliments and/or generally agreeing with whatever I was being interviewed about. Many just said stuff like “Saw you on TV last night.” However, today, I received a comment that was different. I received a copy of an email that had been sent by a fellow Oklahoman to the State Senator that wrote this Bill. The email itself was an exact copy of that he sent Senator Anderson. In this email the sender called for Senator Anderson to worry more about the militarization of all of our law enforcement departments and less about letting a DUI of ender buy a beer. And, he asked the senator to as our representative, to defend our remaining freedoms rather than remove them. Strong stuff. I agree with him. And I appreciate him sending it to me. But, while I have received many recognitions (both locally and nationally and that you can read about elsewhere) for my professional efforts and achievements, this email ALSO contained probably the highest compliment I have ever received. You see, while the email was the same as he sent Anderson, the SUBJECT line of the email copy he addressed to me read: THANK YOU FOR DEFENDING OUR FREEDOM. Wow. That was humbling.
Not a bad outcome in Noble County District Court . . .. Client with a CDL had DUI there. He took a test and had a test result of WAY over the .08% minimum level. However, the test is inadmissible because the maintenance on the machine was not done in accordance with the Rules AND recent caselaw. He was proactive and completed an assessment and all of the requirements therefrom. I presented proof of his efforts to the ADA. I showed the ADA the problem with the breath test. To his credit as a reasonable and honorable prosecutor, he took all this into consideration and (to my surprise), he dismissed the case in open court. This means that my client’s CDL did NOT end up being disqualified. When his license hearing is conducted, the revocation due to the test will be set aside. His livelihood is, and will be, protected. He was more than pleased.
CRAZINESS IN TULSA – CASE STILL DISMISSED & LICENSE RETURNED!
In a case that started in 2012 and finally ended in 2014, this case in Tulsa was one of the oddest one I can remember in my career. The case came from a car wreck where my client was arrested for DUI. He refused the breath test. Even though my client had had a prior DUI of which he was not convicted, it was filed as a misdemeanor. The ADA offered us a conviction and a suspended sentence (which would have revoked his license). My client – this man had “balls” and refused to be run over – summarily turned down the offer and demanded a trial. We set it for trial and I filed more than a dozen motions in the case to either dismiss or restrict the State’s evidence. A few days prior to the hearing on those motions, the State dismissed the misdemeanor charge and RE-FILED it as a felony! A FELONY! The grounds to make the case a felony was that, allegedly, a person in the OTHER car suffered great bodily injury. At the preliminary hearing for this new felony charge, I showed the ADA (a different one from the misdemeanor case) that the driver of the OTHER vehicle was ALSO arrested for DUI in that same wreck. So, I asked him, which alleged drunk driver was responsible for the “great bodily injury” here?? Of course, he couldn’t tell me. He dismissed the felony at preliminary hearing. Matter concluded? Nope, not so fast. This DA’s office wanted something from my client, by God! After all, we weren’t playing by their rules. You are NOT supposed to stand up to them like my client was doing! What happened next? They RE-FILED the case – AGAIN – as Driving While Impaired (“DWI”). Unbelievable. They offered a “deal” of a conviction on this case, too. My client responded the same way: set a trial and prove it. So, I did and filed all the motions. But, I also filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that, since he had refused the breath test AND a DWI requires evidence of a test of .06% BAC OR .07% BAC, they had no evidence to prove a DWI case. We FINALLY got to have a hearing on those motions. The Judge agreed with me, and the case was FINALLY dismissed – – – for good. As for the client’s license, it was NOT revoked because of the language on the breath test/refusal affidavits that were being used at the time of his arrest. The Oklahoma Supreme Court came down with a decision on six (6) cases on appeal that determined that this affidavit COULD NOT trigger a revocation of license in a DUI case. Thousand of persons benefited from THAT decision. One of those 6 cases was a case of mine (a different client). CHARLES SIFERS’ EFFORTS HELP ALL FUTURE OKLAHOMA DUI DEFENDANT Charles has argued – for almost a decade – that the way the courts treat breath and blood test refusals in jury trials was unfair to the defendants. The law provided no jury instruction to the jury members in a case as to how refusing a test should be considered. The prosecutors of this State have always argued that a simple refusal by a defendant meant he KNEW he was guilty of being under the influence, WITHOUT any further evidence. He designed an instruction that required the State to prove MORE, and specifically, to make the State prove that the person KNEW he was guilty AND that the person refused to take the test so as to evade or avoid conviction. This instruction further stated that IF THE STATE DID NOT PROVE this extra stuff, the refusal COULD NOT be considered by the jury as evidence of guilt. Some judges had accepted this; some had not. The Gauntlet published a couple of articles written by Charles that set out this argument AND the instruction that he designed (See DUI REFUSALS: Jury Instructions, The Gauntlet, Fall, 2005, and DUI Jury Trials: More on Refusal Jury Instructions, The Gauntlet, Spring, 2006). A couple of Tulsa lawyers borrowed this argument and set of instructions and used them in a case there. Their case resulted in a conviction which was appealed. At the end of 2006, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the State’s highest court in criminal matters, returned a decision in that Tulsa case that said that an instruction of the type that Charles had been arguing for years MUST BE given in future in the every DUI jury trial with a refusal!! And, the instruction to be given was to be modeled after the very argument that Charles had been making!! A success story for ALL involved AND every person from this point forward who is ever arrested for DUI and refuses the test.
HERE’S A NOT UNCOMMON WEEK . . . . .
Monday started the week off slow (as every Monday should!) and we were successful in scoring license revocation modifications (work permits) for two of our clients. Not all that impressive. But, Tuesday told us the week was going to be a good one. It started with getting the judge to continue a case so our client could finish in-patient treatment (when he does, NO JAIL TIME), even though he is on probation for TWO felony DUI’s and is facing 20 years for a NEW DUI case! Then, it ended with convincing a DA in a different county that he had to charge my client ONLY with a misdemeanor DU, even though he had had MANY previous DUI’s (the last one a felony), AND then closing the case with no jail time and a fine. Wednesday saw one of clients get a deferred sentence on a felony drug charge (AND a DUI) even though he had had a PRIOR DUI in that same court house less than a year before! At the very same time this was going down, license hearings were being won for two of our clients and each got his drivers license back from the DPS. That same afternoon, we were successful in getting the DA to agree to transfer one of our client’s drug court program to a completely different county (unheard of!) so she can complete this course in the town where she lives. Thursday was off the charts. Our Bond Motion for a client was granted. This one deserves expansion. The guy was arrested for two felony DUI’s about 3 weeks apart and posted the standard bond for each. When the charges were filed, the DA’s Office went to a judge of the court and requested the bond be increased 50 times! 5000%! He was arrested and jailed with a $200,000 bond for 2 DUI’s!! A different judge of that court agreed with us that this was WHOLLY improper, reduced the bonds BACK to the original amount, and the client was released that day. Then straight from THAT hearing, we were in Federal District Court on a DUI where the U.S. Attorney threw in the towel and amended the DUI to a Reckless Driving with only a fine. No jail. No probation. Just a fine. Then, to paraphrase a well known book, “on the [fifth day of the week], we rested.”