The Felony Criminal Defense Attorneys at Cannon & Associates are FIERCE ADVOCATES for those facing the fear of losing their freedom. We have successfully defending many clients in felony cases across Oklahoma.
Regardless of the type of criminal charge you are facing in Oklahoma, a felony is a serious matter that may result in prison time, if you are convicted. In addition to prison or jail time, felony crimes in Oklahoma carry punishment that will last beyond your incarceration: fines, probation costs, penalties, and difficult terms of probation, to name a few.
It is vital to your future and your freedom that take the following steps immediately, if you have been arrested for a felony allegation or charged with a felony in Oklahoma. The following are 11 Steps to Avoid Prison on Felony Charges in Oklahoma:
1. Remain Silent, it’s your Right, use it!
Every show or movie concerning law enforcement or criminal justice includes some actor/actress saying, “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say CAN and will be used against you in a court of law…” This popularized phrase is not only good television; it is the law. You have a Constitutional Right to remain silent, i.e. not incriminate yourself. The Fifth Amendment, the Supreme Court case of Miranda, and hundreds of cases give us all the right to refuse to incriminate ourselves in a criminal investigation. The easiest way to avoid incriminating yourself is to say nothing at all! Your chosen Oklahoma felony defense lawyer can review the allegations and witness statements with you PRIOR to your speaking to law enforcement and advise you whether or not it is in your best interest to make a statement or make them prove it.
If you ever have the misfortune of being in custody or arrested; politely decline to answer any questions without your attorney present.
2. Remain Calm; and Silent
Incarceration, even being in jail for one night, has an incredible effect on people that have never been in the situation. It is even more difficult to decline “telling your side of the story” to police, if you are innocent! Being questioned or interrogated by law enforcement officers is intimidating and scary for everyone. In fact, police and detectives are trained to convince you it is in your best interest to speak immediately and tell them your side of the story; however, it is very very rarely the case.
You do not control your destiny the night you are arrested; police control your destiny the night you are arrested. You will be booked into custody if police think they have enough information to hold you for a felony charge, regardless of the perspective you provide. Arguing or defending yourself in the moment is a nature reaction; however, it is the wrong one. Outside of being accused of Murder, Drug Trafficking, and a short list of very serious violent felony charges; you will have an opportunity to bond out of jail to help your criminal defense attorney fight and tell your side of the case, stay silent. Period.
3. Hire Experienced Criminal Defense Counsel Immediately
The most important step in avoiding prison on a felony crime is hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. Every day you spend in custody without counsel hurts your defense. You should interview and hire a felony criminal defense attorney the moment you are under investigation or arrested.
Law enforcement, detectives, and especially prosecutors know the ins and outs of the criminal justice process in your case and may try to use this knowledge against you, if you do not have experienced defense counsel. Having a FIERCE ADVOCATE on your side will even up the sides and protect you from agreeing to anything without first understanding all the implications and costs or benefits of doing so.
You need someone fighting for you, because there is a dedicated and substantial force fighting against you.
4. Do Not Discuss Your Case
It can be very mentally and emotionally difficult being in custody awaiting a resolution of your case; however, you should never discuss your case with anyone, including OVER THE PHONE. Every phone call made in the Oklahoma County jail and many other jails across the state is recorded and can be used against you in Court; regardless of who is on the other line.
I repeat, law enforcement and prosecutors have the ability to listen to every phone call you make at the jail and search for incriminating phrases or statements. Although you are not being interrogated or questioned by law enforcement; Oklahoma courts have decided to admit incriminating statements made in this situation.
Do not discuss your case with a cellmate and do not discuss your case with anyone over the phone. Our firm has seen far too many clients’ defenses greatly weakened by admissions over jail phone calls or simply misinterpretations of statements made on jail phone calls. Same response goes for phone calls from jail as speaking to police; “I will not discuss my case without my defense attorney being present.”
5. Understand your Charges
Most people that do not work in criminal justice do not fully understand the different between a felony and a misdemeanor. Therefore, they often do not understand the severity of the crime they are accused of committing nor the harsh consequences of being convicted of a felony.
In Oklahoma, misdemeanor crimes are punishable by no more than one year in county jail; however, many misdemeanor charges carry far less than 365 days behind bars. Felonies in Oklahoma, all carry more than one year and the incarceration is in prison; not county jail. Felonies carry long terms of probation, steep fines, and substantial restitution in some cases.
Being convicted of a felony in Oklahoma also means the loss of many rights. You may lose the right to vote; the right to own or possess a firearm, and you will likely be denied the opportunity to serve in the military or obtain processional licenses, i.e. doctor, lawyer, architect, CPA, etc.
Prior to beginning a conversation about entering a plea or negotiating at all, it is important to have a complete understanding of what you are giving up by giving up your right to a jury trial and your right to maintain your innocence.
6. First, Defense Attorney; Second, Bondsman
Many people mistakenly post bond immediately for a loved one after they are arrested. This is often a mistake and especially so in felony cases. First and foremost you should find an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you make the best decision concerning how and when to bond out of jail. The follow is a list of some of the important considerations in bailing out of jail with pending charges:
- Your criminal defense attorney can review the allegations in your case and advise you if your bond / bail will be lowered once the prosecutor decides charges to file;
- Your criminal defense attorney can seek an agreement with the prosecutor for a lower bond or fight for a lower bond in your case to the judge, which will save you bond money;
- When you are booked after being arrested, the police or law enforcement officer that books you into jail presents their proposed charges; however, an attorney, specifically a prosecutor will review reports and determine what if any charges to file, which will likely change the bond in your case.
- Your bail may be reduced after your criminal defense attorney gets to weigh in on your charges by meeting with the prosecutor;
- An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you on whether your charges will be reduced or dropped entirely. You will be released from jail if your charges are not filed, i.e. a “No File” by the prosecutor. This typically happens within a week, which may save you thousands of dollars;
- Bondsmen typically charge a 10% fee to post your total bond, i.e. charge you $1,000 for a $10,000 bond. Often, bondsmen will slightly reduce this percentage if you have a criminal defense attorney, which will potentially save you thousands of dollars;
- Your criminal defense attorney may advise you to wait to post bail until after arraignment; after the prosecutor decides and files criminal charges. This is the case, if your bond will go up based on the charges filed, i.e. the prosecutor files more serious charges than what the officer “Booked You” on. The paid bail bond fee will likely not be returned and you will only be able to bond out of jail, if you pay the difference.
- For less serious charges, if after hiring an experienced felony criminal defense lawyer, you or your family can post your entire bond, i.e. a “Cash Bond”, which will be returned in full upon the completion of your case, regardless of the outcome.
These are only a few of the many reasons to hire an experienced felony criminal defense lawyer as soon as you are arrested or under investigation. Our firm would be glad to guide you through the complicated issues of bailment and posting bond on Oklahoma felony charges. Speak to an attorney; wait to post bail; potentially save thousands of dollars.
7. Don’t lie to your Attorney
It is hard to trust a stranger with personal information, especially if it incriminates you or could result in your going to prison if the wrong people find out; however, criminal defense attorneys have an ethical obligation to maintain client confidence, i.e. not tell anyone the information you convey, even if it incriminates you or would make you guilt of the crime or crimes charged!
In order for your felony criminal defense attorney to make the best presentation, evaluation, and argument for your case; he or she will need to know the whole truth about your case. It is crucial that you hire a criminal defense attorney that you trust AND that you are 100% honest with your lawyer throughout your entire felony criminal case.
The attorney-client relationship is protected by privilege and the information exchanged is confidential. Your attorney can and should face discipline from the Oklahoma Bar Association, if your criminal defense lawyer violates this privilege, including potentially losing the ability to practice law.
Be honest and provide details to your criminal defense attorney. The more accurate the information your defense attorney has the better your lawyer will be able to evaluate and assist you in avoiding prison time on your felony case.
8. Do not speak to your family or friends about your case
You should only speak to your criminal defense attorney and their staff about your case. The attorney-client privilege does extend to your attorney’s staff; however, you need to ensure no one can hear the conversation. Confidentiality and privilege do not protect the information you provide to your family or friends, i.e. they could testify against you or provide information to police.
The Oklahoma Evidence Code protects information exchanged between spouses by the spousal privilege; however, this gives your spouse control over whether or not they choose to testify against you if they are a potential victim.
Oklahoma Statutes Title 12, Section 2504, “Husband-Wife Privilege” subsection B and C provide, “B) An accused in a criminal proceeding has a privilege to prevent the spouse of the accused from testifying as to any confidential communication between the accused and the spouse. C) The privilege may be claimed by the accused or by the spouse on behalf of the accused. The authority of the spouse to do so is presumed.”
Therefore, you can prevent your spouse from testifying against you, if the statements were not intended for disclosure, i.e. the prosecution cannot compel your spouse to testify against you.
Your spouse may be an exception to this general rule; however, the best course of action is to speak to no one substantively about your case or answer questions about your case.
So, while your spouse may be an exception to this law, the best course of action is always to tell your friends and family that you cannot talk about your case until it is finished. This will help you avoid any potential damage to your case.
Oklahoma Statutes Title 12, Section 2505, “Religious Privilege” exists in Oklahoma; however, it is always the safest bet to discuss your thoughts/emotions with your religious advisor, not the facts of your case.
Finally, as indicated above every phone call in the majority of county jails in Oklahoma is recorded. Every word you speak to a loved one, friend, or attorney over the phone may be accessible to investigators and prosecutors. Even if your statements are not admissible, i.e. privileged, you cannot rewind the clock if the prosecutor hears bad information from you or even worse an admission.
9. Write Down What Happened
Humans have a limited capacity to remember exact details, especially as life moves along. It is important to write down exactly what you remember occurring on the date or the time surrounding the events you are facing charges for, as you may need to recall specifics for a number of purposes in the future to defend your felony case in Oklahoma.
The more accurate the information you provide your criminal defense attorney the better. The fresher the event is in your mind, the better able you will be to record the events accurately. In true movie fashion; our firm has won cases based on these details, i.e. lighting, distance from the relevant party, or exact time an event took place. Write down, exactly where you were in relevant places and exactly when you were there. Surveillance video of you in another location can end your prosecution, as a video of you away from the crime scene is a powerful alibi.
Police and prosecutors will focus on documenting everything they can to support their case against you as soon as you are arrested or under investigation. This only increases the importance of your building a counter-narrative or documenting what actually happened or happened form your perspective.
10. Identify Witnesses
At the same time you write down your statement or recollection of the events surrounding your arrest; write down the names and contact information of any person who could testify to any favorably facts or observations in your case. It is important to do this early and often to ensure you capture all potential witnesses to support your defense.
First, write down every witness or your best description of every witness who could have seen the alleged crime take place. Your felony criminal defense attorney can follow up with each person and see if their version of events supports your memory and/or supports your defense.
Second, character witnesses, anyone that can testify to your character and specifically what they would say to support you is important to present your defense. Any information to show you are not the type of person that would commit the alleged felony crime or the allegations are out of character for you will assist your criminal defense attorney in your defense.
Prosecutors have too many cases to dive deeply into the facts or witnesses in most cases. It is your criminal defense attorney’s job to make you more than a number or person charged with X, Y, or Z felony offense in Oklahoma. Identifying witnesses and their narratives about you will assist your chosen felony criminal defense attorney make you more than just a number to the prosecutor and show who you are and why you should be given an opportunity to avoid prison.
11. Go to Every Court Date
A person facing misdemeanor charges only may elect to have their criminal defense attorney appear on their behalf, i.e. the defendant can choose to not appear in court at all. This is not the case in felony cases in Oklahoma; likely any state.
Oklahoma Criminal Procedure requires every defendant in a felony case to appear in court. Oklahoma Statutes Title 22, Section 452 “Defendant’s Personal Presence Required for Felony, Not Misdemeanor” requires such appearances. In a felony case, the defendant must be present for the arraignment, preliminary hearing conferences, the preliminary hearing, pretrial conferences, the time of plea, all substantive portions of trial, i.e. the presentation of any evidence to the judge or jury, substantive procedural aspects of your felony jury trial, and the imposition of the sentence. Oklahoma law places the burden on you to know the date, time, and place of every appearance in your felony case. Therefore, it is important to keep a record of this information and hire a competent criminal defense attorney that will assist you in making all your court dates.
Specifically, your criminal defense lawyer should help you keep a calendar of the hearings and appearances in your case. Make sure you set reminders and alarms in your cellphone as well as a trusted friend or family member. Additionally, you can check your next court date on OSCN at any time or you may call your defense attorney’s office to confirm your court dates. Failing to appear in court does not make a good impression on the prosecutor and may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. Unfortunately, many felony warrants for failure to appear come with bond being denied, i.e. your attorney will have to convince your judge to grant bond in your case prior to your bonding out of jail after a failure to appear on a felony case. Simply put, know and make every court date in your felony case!
12. Help your Defense
Beyond the key step of hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney, there is much you can do to help your defense. The first step is to listen to and trust your chosen criminal defense attorney. Second, building a record of being a productive member of your community can only help your case. The following is a list of steps to help build your story of being a productive member of society:
A. Community Service: After consulting with your criminal defense attorney, completing community service (working for free!) may be beneficial to your case. Again, prosecutors and judges look favorably upon defendants that try to give to the community. Further, community service will likely be a condition of probation and you can knock this condition out as well, while your case is pending. Additionally, volunteering and performing community service looks much better to the prosecutor or judge in your case, if you are looking for a job or unemployed than simply stating you are without work.
B. Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous: attending NA or AA meetings can not only have a positive effect on your life, but a positive effect on your case. Your criminal defense attorney does not have to disclose to the prosecutor that you are attending these meetings, but it is a useful tool for your attorney to be able to reference the good work you are doing.
C. Complete Tasks: An experienced criminal defense attorney, in the right circumstance, will give you tasks to complete, while your case is pending. Upon consulting with your attorney, you may be tasked to write a statement, take photographs of a location, get contact information for witnesses (that are not victims or prosecution witnesses), and many other potential tasks. It is important to speak to your defense attorney before investigating your case, as discussed previously. You should take an active role in your case as long as you are on the same page as your Oklahoma defense attorney.
D. Biography: Your attorney can only articulate your life story, if he or she knows it. Every client that hires Cannon & Associates is asked to put together an autobiography of the good things and the hard things that have happened in their life. It does not have to be a long story, just a page or two, but part of your criminal defense attorney’s job is to tell the human side of your story, which should soften the only story the prosecutor knows. You can collect photographs for your attorney of different accomplishments or highlights of your life. In one case, my client’s photographs of before and after suffering from methamphetamine resulting in the prosecution agreeing to his being placed on probation with treatment as opposed to going to prison for many years. Stories matter in criminal defense and no one can help your attorney tell your story better than you.
More than 90% of felony cases in Oklahoma are resolved by some type of plea agreement or a dismissal by the prosecution. Working with your chosen criminal defense attorney to build a strong defense; at the same time building mitigation and extenuation of the circumstances leading to your arrest is an important plan unless you are wrongfully accused, in which case you must build a strong defense to fight your case every step of the way.
14. Alternative Programs
Oklahoma County criminal court and many other county criminal courts offer a wide variety of diversion programs that you may qualify for to avoid prison time on your felony case. There is no guarantee of being accepted into one of these programs; however, if you are interested in entering a plea agreement in your case and not fighting your charges through trial, this may be a good option for you. The following is a list of some of the diversion programs you may be eligible for that would allow you to resolve your Oklahoma felony case and avoid prison time: Community Sentencing, Drug Court, DUI Court, Female Diversion, Mental Health Court, Remerge, and Veteran’s Diversion.
15. Plea your Case to the Judge
In some circumstances clients facing felony charges will plea their case to the judge and ask for a reasonable sentence, if the client does not want to go to trial and was unable to resolve their case with the prosecutor by plea agreement. This process is called a “Blind Plea”; meaning you enter a plea; however, you are blind to the outcome. Your attorney will present all the evidence to support your position, i.e. mitigation and extenuation and the prosecutor will present their side of the case. In many instances a blind plea can result in a better outcome than the best offer by the prosecutor on your felony case; however, this option should not be considered lightly and should only be executed with the advice of an experienced felony criminal defense attorney. You should present the following at the least to the judge, if you enter a blind plea:
- Presentence Investigation (PSI);
- Punishment range for your charges and argument to support a lower sentence;
- Explanation of your past criminal history or what happened in those cases;
- Recommended treatment plan or course of action you will take to stop these events from reoccurring; and
- Sympathy or acceptance of responsibility.
Many clients make great strides by following their criminal defense attorney’s advice and
Counseling: After consulting with your criminal defense attorney, seeking counseling is potentially a positive step to take to help your case. Counseling for an issue identifiable in your case or personal life can be of great benefit, such as: substance abuse, alcohol abuse, mental health, emotional health issues. Additionally, if you are seeking to resolve your case with a plea agreement counseling may be a condition of probation, which you get out of the way by completing while your case is pending. Prosecutors and judges look very favorably on defendants that take steps to address concerns or to simply better themselves. Taking steps to address an issue you or your attorney identify cannot be used against you in court. It is considered a remedial measure to address a concern and is not admissible to prove guilt.
Felony Criminal Defense in Oklahoma
Felony charges are serious accusations and can result in life changing consequences. You or your loved one need a Fierce Advocate to help you in your case. Our team at Cannon & Associates has successfully defended clients facing every type of felony and misdemeanor charge across Oklahoma.
We are led by John P. Cannon, a former Assistant District Attorney and Assistant Attorney General who prosecuted crimes in state court before becoming the experienced Edmond criminal defense attorney he is today. A successful defense can result in a case dismissal, dropped charges, or a not-guilty verdict in your felony criminal case.
If you or a loved one is under felony investigation or has been charged, call us for a free confidential case evaluation. Edmond Felony Criminal Defense Attorney John Cannon is a FIERCE ADVOCATE and available to talk to you today.