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Oklahoma license laws make driving difficult for ex-offenders

Oklahomans who are arrested for drug or alcohol violations often have to go through a series of barriers to fully reintegrate into society. One of the steepest hurdles ex-offenders face is the necessity of paying the fines, court costs and associated fees to reclaim their drivers' licenses. In many cases, these costs prove so prohibitive that ex-offenders choose to risk being detained again, driving illegally while trying to secure the means to pay.

A driver whose license has been revoked may have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to regain their driving privileges after serving their sentence. Since Oklahoma state law draws no distinction between driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an ignition interlock system is frequently required. The state charges a $25 monthly maintenance fee, which is the state maximum, but an additional $50 "rental fee" is imposed.

Lawmakers have challenged the fees associated with reinstated drivers' licenses, contending that these costs introduce a new and unreasonable challenge to ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society in every other respect. Law enforcement officials and organizations such as MADD say the fees decrease the likelihood of ex-offenders posing a further risk to public safety. Limited/modified hardship licenses are available in some cases, but the program has received very little public attention, remaining mostly unknown.

In cases where a client is trying to reinstate or retain driving privileges, an attorney might begin by reviewing the charges against the client and any mitigating factors that may serve as a defense. The attorney could request that the fees be lowered or reduced based on hardship or ability to pay them and still maintain a reasonable standard of living. The attorney may also have to argue the client's case in court.

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