Ryan Martinez
Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) listens to proceedings in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. (Michael Duncan)

(UpdateOne day after the publication of this story, former Oklahoma Rep. Michael Reynolds filed a petition asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to declare that the Oklahoma Constitution prevents Rep. Ryan Martinez from continuing his term in office. The article below remains in its original form.)

Oklahoma Rep. Ryan Martinez pleaded guilty to actual physical control of a motor vehicle Wednesday in relation to his October arrest outside of an Edmond bar.

As part of a plea agreement, Oklahoma County Special District Judge Cassandra Williams ordered Martinez (R-Edmond) to serve a one-year deferred sentence and be placed on unsupervised probation during that time. Additionally, Martinez was ordered to pay $1,000 in court costs and have an alcohol interlock device installed in his vehicle for six months.

As the sentence is deferred, final disposition of the case will be decided after Martinez’s probationary period is served. NonDoc asked Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna’s office for a comment on the plea agreement, but none was provided prior to the publication of this story.

Martinez has represented House District 39 since 2016. He was reelected by default during the 2022 election cycle after no one else filed for the seat, but the “guilty” plea he entered as part of the deferred sentence would appear to halt a potential reelection bid in 2024.

Title 26, Section 5-105a of Oklahoma statutes says that “any person who has entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to [a felony] crime shall not be eligible to be a candidate for or to be elected to any state (…) office or any other elective office of any political subdivision of this state for a period of 15 years following completion of his sentence or during the pendency of an appeal of such conviction or plea.”

Candidate filing for the 2024 election is set to occur in April, more than three months prior to expiration of Martinez’s deferred sentence and probationary period. Martinez did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but various State Capitol insiders believe Martinez may have already decided not to seek reelection even if he were deemed eligible.

Martinez’s October arrest triggered a felony charge because it marked his second driving under the influence offense within 10 years. He was previously charged in 2014 with a misdemeanor for DUI and was put on probation for the offense, which was later expunged from court records.

The structure of Martinez’s new plea agreement would appear to prevent him from having to resign from office immediately. Title 51, Section 24.1 states that “any elected or appointed state or county officer or employee who, during the term for which he or she was elected or appointed, is, or has been, found guilty by a trial court of a felony in a state or federal court of competent jurisdiction shall be automatically suspended from the office or employment.” Because Martinez’s sentence has been deferred for 12 months, the court has not formally found him guilty.

Asked if Martinez’s felony conviction could prevent him from serving in the Legislature, Daniel Seitz, the House Republican Caucus communications director, said the office of House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) is “reviewing the situation.”

Martinez tried to convince officer he could not be arrested

Police were dispatched late in the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 26, to a call from a concerned bar patron who said Martinez had arrived drunk at The Patriarch, a bar in downtown Edmond. The reporting caller told dispatch that the bartender served Martinez one beer before cutting him off.

“I asked him if he’s OK, and he said he called a cab, so he might be calling a cab,” the woman told the dispatcher. “If he could be responsible, that would be good.”

The caller said Martinez was falling down and at one point ran into a wall while exiting the bar. She said she called because she feared he was attempting to drive.

“You know, that one foot goes over the other and you run into the wall. It was kind of scary. I was going to leave, but I’m not going to leave right now,” she said. “I don’t want to be on the road with him.”

Edmond police officers made contact with Martinez in his parked, running SUV at 11:41 p.m. and placed him under arrest at 12:23 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 27.

The police report and body camera footage of the arrest show that Martinez initially misled officers about the events surrounding his conduct that night, including how many drinks he had consumed and the distance he had to drive home. Martinez also falsely claimed the Legislature was in “probably like three special sessions.”

Prior to his arrest, Martinez sat on a curb for about 20 minutes, where he told officers that he could not be arrested as the Oklahoma Legislature was in special session.

“My understanding is the Constitution of Oklahoma says that I can’t be detained on my way to go represent the people,” Martinez said, referencing Article 5, Section 22.

That provision is widely understood to prevent a legislator from being impeded while they are on their way to or from the State Capitol to take action during a legislative session. The provision does not grant legislators the equivalent of diplomatic immunity at midnight in a bar parking lot.

In March, five months after Martinez’s arrest, Rep. Dean Davis (R-Broken Arrow) made the same claim to Oklahoma City police officers prior to his arrest on an allegation of public drunkenness on the patio of Skinny Slim’s in Bricktown. In April, Davis pleaded no contest in OKC Municipal Court and paid a fine, though the amount is not listed in online records.

During Martinez’s detention, responding officers asked him who oversees the Legislature’s special session.

“The governor and the speaker of the House and the president pro temp of the Senate,” Martinez answered. “Would you like me to call Kevin Stitt right now?”

In May 2022, just five months before his arrest, Martinez had called Stitt’s behavior “racist and hateful” after the governor vetoed House Bill 3501, which allows the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to revoke driver’s licenses based on traffic offense convictions in tribal courts. The House and Senate overrode Stitt’s veto, allowing the bill to become law.

“With the governor vetoing this important bill, would it be safe to make the assumption that his racist and hateful behavior towards the tribes of this state is getting in the way of good public policy to protect Oklahomans?” Martinez asked on the House floor during the override of Stitt’s veto.

As officers determined whether the Oklahoma Legislature was actually in special session as Martinez claimed, the lawmaker offered to call then-Attorney General John O’Connor.

“I don’t want to create a constitutional crisis,” Martinez said. “Do you want me to call the attorney general? It would make it easier.”

Eventually, an EPD officer told his colleagues and Martinez that the Department of Public Safety could not confirm a special session was ongoing.

“Even if there was a special session, the guy over at DPS says, ‘I’ve never heard of anyone not being able to be arrested during a special session,'” the officer stated.

Martinez thanked the officer for his conduct.

“You’ve been very fair. I appreciate it. I have no complaints. I love Edmond, America,” Martinez said. “I’ve had a rough couple weeks, man.”