I hope everyone is having a great New Year so far and you are sticking to your resolutions. I plan on dedicating this space to updating and informing you on various aspects of criminal law in Oklahoma. I have practiced as both a prosecutor and defense attorney for over ten years now and feel that I have a unique perspective on issues that are important to Oklahomans, especially those who may be facing criminal charges.
The first topic I would like to address is that of sentence enhancement. This topic is especially relevant, I feel, with State Question 805 being circulated throughout the State. One of the questions I am most often asked is, “What sort of outcome can I expect in this case?” While every case is different and no attorney can promise any particular outcome, it is almost universally true that those who have no criminal record fare better than those who have prior convictions.
The Oklahoma statute that deals with prior convictions, generally, is located in 21 Okla. Stat. § 51.1. The statute looks at two factors to determine your range of punishment: is the crime with which you are charged “violent” – meaning it is enumerated in 57 Okla. Stat. § 571 – and whether or not it carries more than five years. Additionally, a greater punishment range awaits somebody who is charged after two or more previous convictions.
For instance, an individual charged with a non-violent felony that would carry more than five years and the individual has one prior conviction, they would be facing ”imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a term in the range of twice the minimum term for a first time offender to life imprisonment.” Felony gambling for example, normally carries a range of punishment of 1-10 years in addition to a fine. If the person is charged with that crime with a prior felony conviction, the new range of punishment is a minimum of two years to a maximum of Life in the Department of Corrections.
If an individual is charged with a crime enumerated in 57 Okla. Stat. 571, aka a violent crime, that individual is facing a much steeper range of punishment. For example, with no prior convictions, Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon carries a minimum of five years with a maximum sentence of Life. With one prior conviction, that range of punishment then becomes a minimum of ten years in the Department of Corrections with a maximum sentence of Life.
If it wasn’t already confusing enough, whether or not your prior conviction was one that was decriminalized by State Question 801, or you are currently charged with a drug crime, other factors come into play. It is important that if you are facing criminal charges, particularly if you have prior felony convictions, that you contact a skilled criminal defense attorney, such as myself right away. If you or a loved one have any questions, please contact me.