Hundreds of drunken driving cases across Oklahoma will be treated as misdemeanors rather than felonies because of an appellate court ruling Monday, attorneys said.
Those affected by the ruling include former Oklahoma City Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly. He was charged in January 2012 with felony DUI after his second drunken driving arrest in less than three years.
Kelly, was charged with a felony because of a law that took effect Nov. 1, 2011. The law requires an automatic felony charge in a second DUI case if a defendant pleaded guilty or no contest within 10 years of the first such offense.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Monday in a different driver's case that the law cannot be applied retroactively in cases where the defendant completed a deferred sentence.
The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a felony charge against Denzel Salathiel, 60, of Oklahoma City, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to driving under the influence of intoxicants. Salathiel was charged in 2012 with felony DUI despite having his first case dismissed after completing the terms of his deferred sentence.
“The court did exactly what it was supposed to do,” said Doug Parr, Salathiel's attorney. “They said this statute … cannot be applied retroactively.”
Oklahoma County prosecutors argued to the appellate court saying the law applied to everyone regardless of whether their sentence ended before or after the law was enacted.
“We appreciated the guidance from the Court of Criminal Appeals and we will proceed consistent with the ruling,” District Attorney David Prater said.
Prosecutors dismissed Kelly's felony charge Monday and will refile it as a misdemeanor, Prater said.
Kelly's attorney, Charles Siphers, said he expected the court's ruling because he doesn't think the law applies to people who completed their sentences before the law took effect.
“Now he's not going to have to face a felony. At worse, it will be a misdemeanor,” Siphers said, adding that hundreds of cases across the state will be affected by the ruling.
Kelly, who lost his bid for re-election in April, completed a deferred sentence in a previous DUI case from 2009 a few months before the law took effect.
The court did exactly what it was supposed to do. They said this statute … cannot be applied retroactively.”
Denzel Salathiel's attorney