The drunken driving case against Tulsa-area state Rep. Dean Davis is now a misdemeanor due to a legal precedent that bars his past DUI arrest from being used to support a felony charge against him.
Davis, 47, was charged Aug. 13 with DUI-second offense, speeding and obstructing an officer. He had been arrested Aug. 2 on allegations that he drove under the influence on South Aspen Avenue in Broken Arrow.
At the time, the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office wrote in its court filing that Davis was arrested in 2010 on a DUI complaint. But defense attorney Bruce Edge told the Tulsa World on Wednesday that the decision to file a felony charge was a “rush to judgment” and an incorrect use of state law on the issue.
Davis, R-Broken Arrow, was elected in 2019 to represent House District 98, which includes parts of Tulsa and Wagoner counties. Edge told the World he was optimistic that the misdemeanor filing should not affect Davis’ ability to keep his position in the Oklahoma Legislature.
An amended document reflecting the change had not been filed in Davis’ online case record as of Wednesday afternoon, but court minutes state that a prosecutor told Special Judge J. Anthony Miller about the change.
Edge said Wednesday that the case had no legal reason to proceed as a felony because Davis has no prior conviction on his record for a DUI offense. The charging document First Assistant District Attorney Erik Grayless filed in August says Davis received a sentence of 18 months for aggravated DUI, but Grayless said Wednesday that the sentencing was deferred.
When judges defer sentencing, such as what took place in Davis’ 2010 matter, they accept a defendant’s plea of guilty or no contest but withhold making a finding of guilt pending completion until and unless probation requirements are not met.
Records in the 2010 case are sealed except for a speeding conviction entered July 30 of that year. Grayless confirmed Wednesday that Davis successfully completed his probation, which means the DUI charge did not result in a conviction on Davis’ record.
State law as of Nov. 1, 2011, indicates that anyone convicted of or having received a deferred sentence for a DUI shall — if they commit a second violation within 10 years of their conviction or deferral — be found guilty of a felony. Grayless told the World that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has determined that pleas of guilty or no contest to DUI charges can be used for enhancement only if they occurred after November 2011.
“Thus, since Mr. Davis’ first DUI was prior to 2011, his new DUI cannot be enhanced to a felony and was thusly reduced to a misdemeanor by our office,” he said. “Our office continues to aggressively prosecute cases involving DUI in order to make certain all drivers remain safe on our roads.”
Davis’ arrest drew public anger after online journalism outlet NonDoc reported, citing public records, that Davis asked multiple public officials for assistance after his arrest. The World independently obtained the same records and heard Davis tell Rep. T.J. Marti, R-Tulsa, from jail, “I mean, this is kind of weird. This is really weird. The officer wasn’t very nice.”
The arresting officer alleged in his report that Davis told him, “I think you need to call your police chief,” Brandon Berryhill, and said Davis “continued to resist arrest” until two officers worked together to place him in handcuffs. Davis refused to take a breath test and requested a blood test, according to the document.
Recordings of jail phone calls reveal that Davis told Marti and Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, that he called Berryhill while being pulled over for speeding and driving left of center. He reportedly told the arresting officer he had “a couple” of drinks at a friend’s house and was on his way home.
Marti told Davis that Ford’s wife worked for the Broken Arrow Police Department, and Davis said in response that “this is not going to help Broken Arrow at all because they just made an enemy, and that’s not good at all,” the recordings reveal.
Edge told the World that he was not concerned about the contents of the jail calls.
After his arrest was publicized, Davis issued a statement apologizing to his supporters and colleagues, saying he should have done better at his responsibility to “lead by example.”