In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision could render breathalyzer results invalid

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision could render breathalyzer results invalid: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday upheld a Court of Civil Appeals decision to reinstate a man’s driver’s license after a DUI arrest. Eric Sample argued that the rules governing the Intoxilyzer 8000 were not valid. The Intoxilyzer 8000 is the machine that drivers blow into after being arrested on suspicion of DUI. Sample’s attorneys say DPS has had several years to fix the problem and get valid rules in place, but they haven’t. Now, as a result of the Supreme Court decision, thousands of DUI offenders could get their licenses back [KFOR].

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority votes to raise tolls: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority on Tuesday voted to raise tolls to pay for a turnpike improvement and expansion project. The increase is contingent on the resolution of a lawsuit before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which has also been asked to validate the bond projects. Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent filed suit challenging the funding proposal for the improvements and expansion, saying there must be a separate financing mechanism for each project to avoid the constitutional prohibition against logrolling, or including more than one item in legislation [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Corrections Department officials say prison doctors aren’t shackled by past problems: More than a third of all doctors on the payroll at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections have been sanctioned at some point during their medical careers, The Oklahoman has found. The physicians have been disciplined for medication prescribing issues, insurance fraud, alcohol and drug abuse and other behaviors prohibited by the boards that oversee physicians, including two state medical boards and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control [NewsOK].

US court revives inmate’s lawsuit against Gov. Mary Fallin: A federal appeals court has revived an Oklahoma prison inmate’s lawsuit that alleges overcrowding and understaffing at state prison facilities has created dangerous conditions for inmates and inadequate sanitation, laundry and other services. Tuesday’s decision by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates a lawsuit filed by 53-year-old Kent Savage, an inmate at the medium-security James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena, against Gov. Mary Fallin and state prison officials [Associated Press]. The effects of budget cuts on Oklahoma prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

Ex-Muskogee County detention officer facing 10-year prison sentence for rape of inmate: A former Muskogee County detention officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a female inmate in June 2015. Harold Eugene Shinn III, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree rape Tuesday, according to an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation news release. Shinn was fired from his job in January of this year after the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office requested the OSBI look into an allegation that he had an “improper relationship” with an inmate [Tulsa World].

A penny sales tax explained: State Question 779 could be the biggest Oklahoma issue that brings out voters in November, but what would an extra penny-per-dollar you spend mean for Oklahoma? “We should not be ok with being dead last in what we spend to educate our children,” said Amber England of Stand for Children, one of the leading voices in support of 779. Even critics of the proposal say the issue of teacher pay and education funding is of foremost concern to Oklahomans [Fox 25]. Learn more about the 2016 State Questions here.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt adds voice to Clean Power Plan arguments: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt spent Tuesday in court — in Washington, D.C. “We started at 9:30 this morning, and we’ll probably go into the early evening,” Pruitt said by phone while taking a break late Tuesday afternoon. Pruitt was among several state legal officers involved in oral arguments before the D.C. Court of Appeals for West Virginia v. EPA, a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. West Virginia Solicitor General Elbert Lin is the lead litigator for the plaintiffs, but Pruitt and his office have been involved in preparing a considerable part of the case [Tulsa World]. Implementing the EPA climate change rule should be no problem for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Drugged motorists cause concern on Oklahoma roadways: Jodi Lopresto almost died on April 30, 2014, after a head-on traffic crash near Asher. The other driver, who would later test positive for drug use, veered into oncoming traffic on a narrow bridge and slammed into Lopresto’s car. Lopresto, 38, was one of about 100 people who came to the state Capitol on Tuesday for a summit on impaired driving. The summit was held to discuss increasing concerns about drivers on drugs, both legal and illegal [NewsOK].

Let’s improve Oklahoma’s home construction code to withstand tornadoes and earthquakes: For all Oklahomans, weather is always in the forefront. Right now, we’re reveling in the cooler temperatures. Once that passes, winter will make its mark. But it’s what comes after winter that has most of us on edge — tornado season. If we personally haven’t been affected by a tornado, we know someone who has. After all, we live in the heart of Tornado Alley, and we average 69 tornadoes a year. While we can’t stop tornadoes, there is a way to better protect your home and your family [John Doak / Tulsa World].

Kansas has 2 days worth of reserve funds, according to study: Kansas could run its government for only two days on its cash reserves, according to a study by Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew analyzed cash reserves for all states at the end of the most recent fiscal year and estimated how long state government could continue to function if it relied on reserves. Kansas ended the 2016 fiscal year in June with a $35 million balance, which Pew calculates would last two days. The average state has about 29.2 days worth of reserve funds, for comparison [Wichita Eagle].

Oklahoma City Council rejects Indigenous Peoples Day observance: The Oklahoma City Council considered two proposals Tuesday to establish an official Indigenous Peoples Day observance and rejected both. Each measure failed 6-3, with different council members comprising the majority on each vote. Based on last year’s results, when a proposal for an Indigenous Peoples Day observance failed 5-4, there were enough votes to establish an official observance this year [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Pay can be a factor. The agency is not always able to compete with private-sector salaries.”

-Clint Castleberry, manager of the state Corrections Department’s Medical Services Division, explaining the lack of applicants for medical positions at Oklahoma prisons. A report by The Oklahoman found that over one third of DOC doctors have been sanctioned at some point in their medical careers (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma public school students subjected to physical restraint 2011-2012. 506 of these students were male.

Source: Civil Rights Data Collection

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why So Many Poor Americans Don’t Get Help Paying For Housing: As a single mom raising four kids on little more than a welfare check, Meng qualifies for government housing assistance. But like most low-income Americans, she isn’t getting any. The waiting list for housing aid in South Portland is two to five years long; she’s been on it since 2013. In the meantime, she is paying $1,500 a month, utilities not included, for a three-bedroom apartment. “All the income I have is going to housing,” Meng said [FiveThirtyEight].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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