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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

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For Immediate Release: May 19, 2009

Sen. Debbe Leftwich
Sen. Debbe Leftwich

New Law Strengthens Penalties Against Unlicensed Drivers in Injury/Fatality Accidents

Anyone convicted of injuring or killing someone while driving with a license that has been suspended or revoked now faces tougher penalties in Oklahoma. Governor Brad Henry signed House Bill 2263, enacting the “Gaje Jeffrey Florence Act.” Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, were the authors of the measure.

Leftwich first introduced the legislation in 2008 and renewed her efforts during the 2009 legislative session. The legislation was named for a child who was killed by an individual who was driving after they’d had their driver license taken away.

“The family was devastated when they found out that all the driver could be charged with was a misdemeanor. It just didn’t seem right that the death of a child would result in nothing more than a slap on the wrist,” Leftwich said. “Under this new law, this crime will be a felony.”

According to the language signed into law, an individual knowingly driving with a license that has been suspended, revoked, canceled or denied could be charged with a felony, and if convicted, could face up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $3,000.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said the new law finally gives prosecutors the power to appropriately address the public safety problem of the repeat Driver Under Suspension offender.

“The progressive punishment provisions in the bill enhance the punishment for subsequent acts. In addition, offenders driving without valid licenses who are involved in an accident that injures or kills another person will now be held to answer for their crime,” Prater said. “I believe this law will have a deterrent effect on anyone who may consider driving without a valid driver license in Oklahoma. I applaud the authors of this bill and Gov. Henry for passing this much-needed legislation.”

“It’s terrible that it took a tragedy to bring attention to this problem, but with strong penalties, hopefully people who’ve lost their licenses will think twice before getting behind the wheel,” Leftwich said. ”If they decide to drive anyway, at least we now have a punishment more appropriate for this serious crime.”

For more information contact:
Sen. Leftwich's Office - 405-521-5557

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