According to the Daily Oklahoman, Ronald “Skip” Kelly, Oklahoma City Councilman, was arrested for DUI and under the current law must be accused as a felon. A local news story paints a dark picture against a good Councilman. A search of the OSCN data base does not support the story.
New law made Oklahoma City councilman’s felony DUI charge automatic
An Oklahoma law that took effect in November automatically made Oklahoma City Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly’s DUI charge a felony.
Oklahoma City Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly is among the first people affected by a new state law that makes a felony charge automatic against arrestees with previous DUI convictions.
The law, which took effect Nov. 1, mandates a felony charge for anyone arrested on a drunken driving complaint within 10 years of the end of their sentence for a previous DUI conviction.
Those convicted of the felony face punishment of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500 and must be evaluated at their own expense for possible substance abuse treatment.
Kelly, 62, was charged last week in Oklahoma County District Court with felony DUI after his arrest Jan. 20 in northwest Oklahoma City.
He had previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of DUI in 2009, and his 10-year clock created by the new law started ticking when his two-year deferred sentence ended in May.
Some, but not all, repeat DUI offenders were charged with felonies before the new law took effect.
Kelly, who will lose his council seat if convicted of the felony, did not respond late last week to messages seeking comment. It isn’t clear whether he has hired an attorney. A pretrial conference for the new DUI charge is set for Feb. 16.
Defendants in criminal cases often negotiate with prosecutors to plead guilty to lesser charges.
TOUGHER DUI LAWS
The new law affecting Kelly is one of several changes state lawmakers made last year to make Oklahoma’s DUI laws tougher.
The Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act, named after a 20-year-old Edmond woman killed by a drunken driver in 2009, requires an interlocking ignition device installed on the vehicles of first-time DUI offenders. The offenders’ driver’s licenses also say “Interlock required,” signaling to a police officer the driver isn’t allowed to drive vehicles without the lock.
The device, which already was required for all repeat offenders and part of the sentences of some first-time offenders, requires a person’s blood alcohol content to be below the legal limit of 0.08 for the car to start.
The Swezey Act also lengthens the amount of time the devices are installed on the cars, which is longest for the most serious offenses and for those convicted multiple times.
Kelly was arrested Jan. 20 when a patrolling police officer found him in his wrecked car on NW 63 east of Western Avenue. Kelly has denied he was drunk, and said he was trying to avoid another vehicle that almost hit him at Shartel Avenue.
Police concluded Kelly’s account of the crash didn’t match the physical evidence. Police reported Kelly showed signs of being drunk and failed sobriety tests, and Kelly refused to take a breath or blood test.
Kelly has said he won’t resign and will serve out the remainder of his term, which expires in 2013. He has not committed to running for re-election.
His colleagues on the Oklahoma City Council who have commented about his arrest have expressed support for him, and some suggested he has a problem with alcohol and should receive the community’s support if he seeks treatment. Kelly has publicly denied being an alcoholic.