Criminal procedures from arrest through trial are basically uniform throughout the states. Most states vary some of these procedures so long as they comply with federal and state laws protecting basic rights of the accused. The following is an introduction to the criminal defense process in Oklahoma.
Arrest and Rights of the Accused
If you are taken into custody pursuant to an arrest warrant or based on probable cause that you committed a crime, you are under arrest. Misdemeanor arrests can only be made by an officer if he or she observed the crime being committed.
If taken into custody, you are advised that you have the right to remain silent, that what you say will be used against you, that you may have an attorney present during questioning and that one will be appointed for you if you are unable to afford one. These are known as your Miranda rights.
At a police or jail facility, defendants are identified, their personal effects taken and stored, and then they are photographed and fingerprinted. A phone call is permitted. Most arrestees are either arraigned the following day, or bail is determined if they are still in custody. If a weekend, defendants must wait for the next business day to appear in court.
Oklahoma's Bail Process
Most bail is preset according to the offense associated with it. It may change if the defendant has a history of nonappearances in court, is mentally unstable, is not local or poses a danger to the community.
Most bail is paid by a bond with the defendant or family member paying a nonrefundable 10 percent of the bail amount, or premium, to a bail agent along with collateral securing the bond if the bail is high.
Arraignment, First Appearance and a Plea
If arrested by warrant or on probable cause and formal charges are filed by what is called an information, felony defendants will appear with their attorney and the charges will be presented. If no attorney is present, defendants may qualify for a court-appointed attorney if eligible or the arraignment is continued until an attorney is retained.
If no Information has been filed, an arrested felon will be given a court date to await the filing of charges or the person can bond out or be released.
Misdemeanor defendants can appear by video if still in custody. The charges are presented, penalties and rights explained, and one of the following three pleas are entered:
- Guilty — The defendant admits to all charges.
- Not guilty — The defendant denies the charges and forces the state to its proof. An appearance bond is required and a trial date is set.
- No contest — There is no dispute of the charges. It is considered a guilty plea except that it may not be used as evidence in a civil suit.
Plea Arrangements in Oklahoma
Nearly all criminal cases are resolved through plea negotiations. A defendant can plead guilty or no contest straight up to all or some of the charges or to a reduced or deferred sentence.
Preliminary Hearing Stage/Grand Jury
Felony defendants are entitled to a preliminary hearing in which probable cause is determined or not. If found, the defendant is bound over and returns to District Court for another arraignment where the charges are again presented, a plea is entered and a trial date set.
Use of a grand jury to issue indictments of felony offenses is optional by prosecutors.
Trial Procedures and Sentencing
Felony trials in Oklahoma have 12 jurors, while misdemeanors have six. An unanimous verdict is required to convict based on proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In misdemeanor cases or other violations where jail is not a penalty, only a court or bench trial is permitted.
In some cases, an Oklahoma jury may decide the sentence of anyone they convict. Judges decide most sentences by deferring to sentencing guidelines and by considering a pre-sentence report composed of the defendant's criminal history, employment and social situation, mental condition and other factors.
Retain an Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorney
Each state has its own criminal law procedures. Retain an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges.