Charles Sifers, Oklahoma DUI Attorneys, fight for their 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.
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 Drivng While Impaired (“DWI”). Unbelieveable.
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 motin 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 revocaiton 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).
Not a bad outcome in Noble County District Court last week . . .. 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.
A pretty good week . . .
A pretty good week for our clients.
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.”
And, NEXT week’s not looking bad at this point. From what we could gather yesterday, we expect the Jury Trial that is set for Monday to see the DA dismiss the charge that morning.
Like I said at the beginning: A pretty good week for these ten people. Frankly, that’s an understatement. As conceited as it sounds, it was a smart move for these folks to have hired us to handle their cases!
2007 STARTS OFF GOOD FOR OUR CLIENTS
At of the first of 2007, two (2) of our felony DUI cases in Oklahoma County District Court came up for final conclusion. Both had reached the point of the end of any further negotiation. In each case, the prior DUI that the State was using to enhance the new case to a felony was from the Oklahoma City Municipal Court. At pre-trial, we were able to show the DA that in both cases that the State’s evidence to prove the prior conviction was INSUFFICIENT! In other words, the State COULD NOT prove a felony if the case actually went to trial. In both instances, the State amended the charges to MISDEMEANORS and neither of these clients were convicted of a felony!
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 ofarticles 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.
From the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Weekly, March 19, 2007:
JEFF SIFERS & CHARLES SIFERS, OKC, laced them up in Beckham County defending a client charged with DUI, DUR, and Straddling Lanes. The trial judge was the Hon. Floyd Haught and the prosecutor was Gina Webb. Client had two prior DUIs and two prior drug arrests. In this case, client refused the State’s test. The centerpiece of the State’s case was a 45-minute videotape of the traffic stop and drive to jail which featured client cussing the arresting officer for a good 30 minutes(!) Charles reports that he filed 22 motions prior to trial and 4 more motions in limine on the day of trial (including one dealing with the refusal jury instruction) and Judge Haught denied them all! Although Charles conducted voir dire and gave the opening statement, Jeff stepped up and cross-examined the State’s main law-enforcement witness. How do you know if you’ve done a good job on cross-examination? When the prosecutor mentions in closing argument that she did not know who testified more, you or the cop witness. Sounds like Jeff is on the right track. Although it was a close question, client did not take the stand. The jury came back with a not guilty on the DUI but guilty on the other two misdemeanors, proving once again there are few lawyers in Oklahoma with a more firm grasp on DUI law than Charles, and now Jeff. Congrats on a good win!
NO CONTROL OF THE CAR
V.M., a resident of another state, was in Oklahoma City on business a few months ago and was staying at a local motel. One evening, he went out to eat (and drink) with co-workers. On his way back to the motel, he stopped at a convenience store to buy beer. After he went into the store, a Highway Patrolman also stopped at this store to buy gas. This Hi-Po noticed a car (V.M.’s) parked in a clearly marked handicapped space. When V.M. exited the store carrying the beer, the Hi-Po saw him walking to the illegally parked car “unsteady on his feet”, open the car door, hand the beer to the passenger, and start to sit down in the driver’s seat. However, before V.M. could sit down in the car, the Hi-Po yelled at him to “come here”. V.M. never completed his entry into the car. He straightened back up and went to the officer. V.M. was then arrested for Actual PhysicalControl of a Motor Vehicle while under the influence of Alcohol (“APC”).
The State tried to revoke his out-of-state driver’s license. An APC charge was filed in Oklahoma County District Court. The D.A. wanted a conviction and fine (etc).
V.M. hired Sifers & Sifers to represent him. After the Department of Public Safety ruled against him on his license, our office filed a District Court Appeal. At the appeal, the senior Mr. Sifers showed the judge that, since V.M. never got into the car, the crime of APC was never committed and the arrest was therefore invalid. License returned. A transcript of that trial was obtained and delivered by Mr. Sifers to the D.A. in the Oklahoma County District Court criminal case with the suggestion “to read this”. A few days later, the D.A. outright dismissed the charge. No loss of license. No conviction (or fine or probation) of the APC.
THE CONTINUED POWER OF REPUTATION TO BENEFIT OUR CLIENTS:
— MORE PROOF THAT WHO YOU HIRE CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE —
The lawyer who represents a person charged with DUI can make a TON of difference (see His Reputation Precedes Him below). More proof of that occurred inJuly, 2006 for one of our clients in a case in a southern county of Oklahoma. BW was charged with two counts: Felony DUI (a possible 5 year prison sentence) and Felony possession of Marijuana (“PMJ”)(a possible 10 year prison sentence). The senior Mr. Sifers met with the Assistant District Attorney prior to the preliminary hearing on the case. This DA was not, by ANY MEANS, a “baby lawyer”, but had been in private practice for many years previous to assuming the DA duties of that county. Mr. Sifers had never met him. After about 30 minutes of negotiation, the DA agreed to dismiss the PMJ. He offered to close the DUI part of this case, without a preliminary or a trial, with a one year deferred sentence and a fine and costs. This was the SHORTEST deferred sentence ona felony DUI that the senior Mr. Sifers could remember ever negotiating. As Mr. Sifers left, the DA said “it was finally good to meet you” since he had “read so many of (Mr. Sifers’) articles on DUI cases over the years”. Yes, who represents you can make a difference . . . . . . ..
His Reputation Precedes Him
M.M., a college student, after hitting a parked car and leaving the scene, was arrested in Weatherford and charged with DUI in the District Court in that county. This was FOURTH DUI in three years. It was, amazingly, filed only as a misdemeanor. At the license hearing, we were able to prove that the DPS DID NOT have sufficient evidence to revoke his license (the probable cause was extremely “thin”) and won the license back for him. The assigned D.A., however, wanted our client to be convicted, do 20 days in the county jail, and pay a large fine. Mr. Sifers, who does not practice in that county as frequently as he does in other counties, had never met this particular D.A. In an effort to be professional and to introduce himself to this young D.A., Mr. Sifers met with him at his office. Fully NOT expecting this young man to agree with him, Mr. Sifers suggested that a deferred sentence (the case is dismissed at the end of probation) was the better way to close this case and avoid a trial for everyone. The D.A. quickly agreed with Mr. Sifers and the matter was closed with the deferred sentence. M.M. was NOT convicted of ANYTHING and DID NOT lose his license, either.
Prior to leaving the courthouse that day (but AFTER he had gotten the deal for his client!), Mr. Sifers went back by the D.A.’s office and expressed his surprise to this young D.A. of his acceptance of Mr. Sifers suggestion of a deferred sentence for M.M. When he asked him WHY he went along with it, the D.A.’s only response was, “I know who you are”, turned and walked away.
IS IT A CRIME WHERE THE OFFICER STOPPED YOU??
The crime of DUI or APC can NOT be committed just anywhere in the state of Oklahoma. You must be located on a place where it is prohibited. Until recently, there were several locations that these crimes COULD NOT be committed: driveways, private roads, etc. The legislature DID broaden this some in the 2003-2004 legislative session. However, this question is STILL one that MUST be answered in defending these cases!
A couple of examples of how Mr. Sifers has used this technique for his clients are:
MOBILE HOME PARK STREETS ARE EXEMPT FROM DUI!
G.F. was arrested by a officer while driving in a mobile home park. He was on probation for felony DUI at the time. This new case was ALSO a felony DUI. We obtained the records of the land where this event occurred and discovered that these streets were NOT city, county, OR state roads. They were all private streets or roads. The traffic statutes of the State – at that time – did NOT apply to private streets or roads. Of course, the D.A. would NOT believe this and prosecuted both the revocation of his probation and the NEW case as well. The judge overruled our motions to dismiss both matters.
After a bench trial and conviction of our client, we appealed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court agreed with us and released our client within a week of the published decision. (See Fenimore v. State). The legislature – based upon this very case – changed the statutes the very next legislative term!
YOU CAN’T BE ARRESTED IN A WHEAT FIELD FOR DUI/APC
P.P. had drunk way too much and was attempting to drive home in a rural area of Oklahoma. He left the road (unintentionally) and ended up in a wheat field beside the country road and could not find his way back to the road. He turned off his car which was now parked in this wheat field and passed out. A highway patrolman happened by on his way home from his shift and saw this car in the field. He found PP and arrested him for Actual Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol (“APC”). An Intoxilyzer 5000 test showed a .19% result. The was P.P. 13th DUI/APC arrest. It was filed as a Felony and the District Attorney wanted him to go to jail for five (5) years!
Our firm showed the DA’s office that, under the case law, the crime of APC (or DUI) could not be committed in a wheat field. Although not wanting to, the DA agreed and dismissed the case against PP. The DPS did not agree and revoked his license. Our firm appealed the decision and the Oklahoma Court of Appeals agreed with us, publishing the decision. Consequently through our efforts, new law was made as to where these crimes can be committed and an arrest result therefrom. (See Post v. DPS)
Even with the legislatures recently changes, this is STILL good law and a place where you can not commit the crime of DUI or APC!
THE TIMELY FILING OF PROPER MOTIONS
In the case of WJ, the OTHER person that our office represented who had been arrested in the roadblock of the Village Police, the District Attorney would NOT discuss any reasonable disposition of the case. We had already won his driver’s license back. The DA wanted a conviction and a suspended sentence, which would have nullified our license win and revoked the license anyway. Our office was NOT willing to allow that to happen to WJ. We had no choice but to set the matter for trial. In the court in which it was filed, all motions must be heard by the trial judge just prior to the matter being tried before a jury. Our office filed 17 motions in the case to be heard. Of the ten (10) motions that the judge finally heard, he granted 8 of the 10. The judge granted our motion to exclude and suppress the video tape of the arrest, the breath test, the field tests, all post arrest statements of the client, and all reference to any prior arrests.See “Summary of Orders”. When we were through, the state had almost no evidence left. We then urged our motion for directed verdict (insufficient evidence) and to dismiss the case. With no more evidence left, the judge dismissed the case. Several “old-time” lawyers who either watched these motions argued or later heard about this case, commented that they had not seen such an effective use of motions in a DUI case in years OR possiblyEVER. Consequently, of the total of THREE (3) people who were arrested for DUI in that roadblock, only ONE was ever convicted and lost his driver’s license, and it was the one person in that total number of persons arrested that our office DID NOT represent.
Quote From the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Weekly newsletter, November, 2006:
“CHARLES & JEFF SIFERS, OKC, share some of theirfine advocacy in recent cases. The details of these cases were provided to me by Charles himself and I think have some good tips and lessons on how to aggressively defend DUI cases (from one of the very best):
Fun in Municipal Court: Charles was hired by two clients in separate DUI cases in Bartlesville Municipal Court (a court not of record) earlier this year. One client was a first-time offender from Texas. The other client was a local with a class B CDL and a previous non-alcohol felony conviction. The Municipal Court in Bartlesville does not have a prosecutor. The arresting officer simply testifies before the Judge and acts as a de facto City Attorney. The judge informed Charles, almost proudly, that there was no plea bargaining in his court on DUI’s; and, since there was no chance of jail time, the options were to plea to the charge and receive a fine or have a bench trial. Charles opted for a bench trial in both cases. As you might expect,the trials proceeded in a somewhat different manner regarding the rules of evidence and the burden of proof like one would expect say, in a federal courtroom. Charles lost both cases.
What to do? File an appeal in theDistrict Court and set them for trial. This action forced an actual lawyer to represent the City who moved ex parte to have the appeals stricken and called Charles, complaining about the appeals. Seemssuch things are never done in that neck of the woods. Charles informed the City Attorney that he was not going to settle for DUI convictions for his clients. Two weeks ago, Charles received a letter from the City Attorney offering a proposed J & S for these appeals that showed the trials had been done, a finding of not guilty to the DUI occurred, and a finding of guilt to Reckless Driving with no probation, etc. Both clients accepted. As for the license revocation administrative hearings, Charles tried both of them, winning the hearing on the client with the CDL and losing the other hearing, but securing the work permit.
Driver’s License Checkpoints: About a year ago, a prior client wasstopped at a “DL checkpoint” in south OKC. Theclient (wisely) hired Charles again. Charleswon the District Court appeal of his license revocation. Judge Croy stopped just short of ruling the roadblockunconstitutional in his nine-page written opinion, but he did rule that the client’s refusal was coerced and set aside the revocation of the license. What to do in the criminal case? Charles filed a motion to dismiss and to suppress the refusal in the criminal case based upon collateral estoppel/issue preclusion, using the Order and the transcript of the license appeal. Charles also filed an alternative motion to dismiss, arguing the unconstitutional seizure in the roadblock,based upon the evidence contained in this Driver’s License Appeal transcript.
The criminal case ended up before Judge Glen Jones. The ADA (of course) did not respond in time and argued that he had not had sufficient time to respond to the motions. Judge Jones permitted briefing on these motions and gave the ADA time to filea Response Brief. Jeff Sifers (recently minted lawyer) drafted the Reply and argued the motions before Judge Jones the week before last. At the end of his verbal ruling which took close to an hour, Judge Jones (following much of Jeff’s arguments) granted the alternative motion to dismiss. The bottom line: license returned, criminal case dismissed, prosecutor livid.
The Fine Print: Also, two weeks ago, Charles appeared before Judge Gray in Oklahoma County representing a client charged with a second felony DUI. Charles noticed that the Second Page listed two previous felony DUI convictions dated May 30, 1996. Charles moved to dismiss the case because the client could NOT legally be convicted within 10 years of his previous conviction (this argument, based upon a careful reading of the statutes,has been highlighted in the pages of the OCDW thanks to Charles). The State, represented by thesame ADA who was defeated in the DL checkpoint case above, wanted to brief the issue. Judge Gray announced that the State “was wrong on the law” and ruled that the case should only be filed as a misdemeanor. She then gave the State the opportunity to amend the existing case to a misdemeanor OR re-file as a misdemeanor. Charlesobjected and said that any amendment would still retain the felony case number(!) Judge Gray agreed and dismissed the case, telling the State that if it still wanted to pursue the case, it had tore-file it under a misdemeanor case number.”
**A FOLLOW-UP NOTE TO THE “FINE PRINT” STORY ABOVE:A few days after Charles’ success on this case, another lawyer who purports to be a “DUI Lawyer” in Oklahoma City “borrowed” Charles’ argument – and it looked like even Charles’ Motion and Brief out of our client’s court file! – and used it in a case of his. In ALL fields, it appears, there are leaders and followers. In DUI Defense in Oklahoma, our office is the leader.