Criminal Law involves a wide variety of crimes from a misdemeanor traffic violation to a felony. If you have been charged with a crime, you need to know your rights and the process of the criminal court system. Whether you are wrongfully being charged with a crime that you did not commit, being charged under a set of facts that you do not agree with or even if you willfully committed a crime, you have Constitutional rights. You need to have someone who both knows your rights and who will fight for your rights in the courtroom. The Constitutional rights that most often are encountered in Criminal Law issues are the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments.
Classification of Crimes
Crimes are divided as either a felony or as a misdemeanor. A felony is a crime that is punishable with death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary for over a year. A misdemeanor is any other crime. In most cases, a misdemeanor is limited in punishment to no more than one year in the county jail and a fine of no more than $500.00.
Felonies also have additional ramifications other than imprisonment if you are convicted such as employment, firearms ownership, and professional licenses. Some felonies have specific things requirements such as being put on the sex offender registry, or the Oklahoma Methamphetamine Offender Registry
Procedural Difference between Felonies and Misdemeanors
Felonies have a different procedure than misdemeanors in Oklahoma. Misdemeanors go straight to a jury trial after discovery and motions are completed. On felonies, however, prior to a jury trial, the defendant is allowed a preliminary hearing. This allows the defendant an opportunity to see part of the evidence against them. At the preliminary hearing, the State must prove there is probable cause that a crime was committed and that the defendant probably is the one that committed it. If the State does not meet its burden, the case may be dismissed at the preliminary hearing. Most of the time, the State is able to put on enough evidence at the preliminary hearing for the defendant to go through jury trial. If this is the case, the preliminary hearing is used as a way to gather evidence and testimony prior to going to a jury trial.
Number of Jurors at Jury Trial
- A misdemeanor charge will have a six-member jury.
- A felony charge will have a twelve-member jury.
- In both types of charges, the jury’s vote must be unanimous.
Process of a Jury Trial
- Potential Jurors are questions by both lawyers and the jury is selected.
- Both side make opening arguments and set the tone for the case.
- Witnesses are called to testify and be cross-examined along with pieces of evidence.
- Both sides make their closing arguments.
- The jury issues its verdict after deliberation.
Types of Punishment/Sentences
If a conviction occurs, a deferred sentence is usually the most preferred type of sentence by defendants. A deferred sentence allows a defendant to be placed on probation and to put off sentencing until a later specified date. If the defendant completes probation successfully, the charge is dismissed at the end of probation. If the defendant violates the terms of the deferred sentence, the court may accelerate the date of sentencing and enter a judgment. The deferred judgment procedure does not apply to sex offenses that require an offender to register pursuant to the Sex Offenders Registration Act. Offenders with prior felony convictions are also ineligible for a deferred sentence unless the court waives this prohibition upon written application of the district attorney.
A court may suspend the execution of a sentence in whole or in part, with or without probation. If the defendant completes their suspended period successfully, they will not serve time, but the felony will still appear on their record.
Offenders who receive suspended sentences with probation are usually supervised by the Department of Corrections for a period specified by the Judgment and Sentence. For example, if an offender receives a one year suspended sentence, they will be supervised for one calendar year beginning the date the Judgment and Sentence were rendered. This statute allows the Department of Corrections to end supervision at two years if deemed to be in the best interest of the public.
If a violation warrant is issued by the court prior to the termination of the suspended sentence, the offender goes through a revocation process and may have the sentence revoked by the court. If the sentence is revoked, the offender will be remanded to Department of Corrections custody for the period specified.
A split sentence is when a court specifies both a term of incarceration and a term of probation. After the incarceration term is completed, a detainee may be released and the probation term will begin. The probation term is subject to revocation and additional incarceration if the terms of the probation are violated.
Incarceration is when the defendant is convicted and receives jail time.
A defendant may appeal a conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. This Court is synonymous with the Oklahoma Supreme Court but only hears criminal matters. A defendant may appeal any issue that arose throughout their entire criminal procedure. This includes searches, warrants, and gathering of evidence from even before the defendant was ever arrested all the way to the time the defendant is convicted and sentenced.
Habeas Corpus (Appealing to Federal Court)
A writ of habeas corpus is an action in which a convicted detainee may seek relief by the court from unlawful imprisonment. The majority of these actions are taken by detainees that were convicted in state courts. A writ of habeas corpus may be filed in a federal court only after a detainee has exhausted all of their state remedies through the appeals process. Although the majority of these actions are filed by unrepresented imprisoned detainees, the process is very difficult and the timing is crucial. Once the deadline passes for a habeas corpus to be filed, a federal court will not consider a detainee’s action. Out of all of these actions across the U.S., only about 2% are granted. Because of the high difficulty level of these actions, the strict rules and procedures and the low rate of success, it is very important to have someone with the knowledge and understanding of the issues that courts are looking for and the arguments to make when taking a habeas corpus action.
Firm’s Primary Geographic Practice Area For Criminal Law
MAJOR FELONY CRIMES: Statewide
LESSER FELONY CRIMES AND MISDEMEANOR OFFENSES: Mayes County, Oklahoma; Rogers County, Oklahoma; Wagoner County, Oklahoma; Delaware County, Oklahoma; Craig County, Oklahoma; Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma