General Sentencing Structure
The traditional sentencing method in Oklahoma occurs after a person is found to be guilty of a crime at trial or following a plea agreement. A judge or jury decides on a person’s innocence of guilt during the trial phase of the prosecution, and then makes a recommendation on what they believe is an appropriate sentence.
Once the trial is concluded, the judge, following statutory guidelines, dictates the actual sentence that a person will receive; however, in almost every case the judge implements the sentence recommended by the jury, which is not the case in almost every state. Oklahoma, is one of the few states in the Union where the jury recommends a sentence at the conclusion of trial.
Oklahoma, unlike most other states, does not classify felonies into different categories such as Class A, Class B, and Class C. While these classifications might affect sentencing in those other states; in Oklahoma a felony is any crime that is punishable by death or imprisonment in state prison, i.e. carries a penalty greater than one year in jail. When the death penalty is considered for a felony crime, a jury and not the judge has the responsibility of determining whether the sentencing results in the death penalty.
In Oklahoma, except in cases where a different punishment defined in a statute or by some provision of law, every offense declared to be a felony is punishable by maximum $1,000 fine, or by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for no more than 2 years, or by both such fine and imprisonment. While this may seem light for some felonies, many felony crimes provide for much harsher sentencing ranges in the statutes which define the individual crimes. Basically, only the least serious felony offenses fall under this catch all provision. The punishment for serious felony crimes in Oklahoma typically carry up to 20 years or life in prison. The following section describes the punishment for Drug Trafficking offenses.
Punishment for Drug Trafficking in Oklahoma
Drug Trafficking is based upon possession or constructive possession of a specific amount of a particular drug. Each controlled dangerous substance is a separate offense under Oklahoma law. Therefore, possession of the amount of each drug below will constitute a separate drug trafficking offense:
|Drug Trafficked||Drug Trafficking: Weight and Fines||Prison Time for Trafficking|
|Marijuana (aggravated)||≥ 25 lbs. $25,000 - $100,000 ≥ 1,000 lbs. $100,000 - $500,000||First Offense: 0 – 20 years Second Offense: 4 years – life Third+ Offense: 20 years – life|
|Cocaine (aggravated)||≥ 28 g. $25,000 - $100,000 ≥ 300 g. $100,000 - $500,000 ≥ 450 g. $100,000 – $500,000||First Offense: 0 – 20 years Second Offense: 4 years – life Third+ Offense: 20 years – life|
|Heroin||≥ 10 g. $25,000 - $50,000 ≥ 28 g. $50,000 - $500,000||First Offense: 0 – 20 years Second Offense: 4 years – life Third+ Offense: 20 years – life|
|Meth (aggravated)||≥ 20 g. $25,000 - $200,000 ≥ 200 g. $50,000 - $500,000 ≥ 450 g. $50,000 - $500,000||First Offense: 0 – 20 years Second Offense: 4 years – life Third+ Offense: 20 years – life|
|LSD||≥ 1 g. $50,000 - $100,000 ≥ 10 g. $100,000 - $250,000||Not explicit in the statute|
|PCP||≥ 20 g. $20,000 - $50,000 ≥ 150 g. $50,000 - $250,000||Not explicit in the statute|
|Ecstasy||≥ 30 tabs or 10 g. $25,000 - $100,000 ≥ 10 tabs or 10 g. $100,000 - $500,000||Any Offense: 0 - 20 years Any Offense: 2 years - life|
|Morphine||≥ 1,000 g. $100,000 - $500,000||Any Offense: 0 – 20 years|
|Oxycodone||≥ 400 g. $100,000 - $500,000||Any Offense: 0 – 20 years|
|Hydrocodone||≥ 3,750 g. $100,000 - $500,000||Any Offense: 0 – 20 years|
|Benzodiazepines||≥ 500 g. $100,000 - $500,000||Any Offense: 0 – 20 years|
|Fentanyl||≥ 1 g. $100,000 - $500,000||Not explicit in the statute|
85 Percent Rule
The 85 Percent Rule is a sentencing guideline which requires that a person convicted of certain crimes serve at least 85% of their prison sentence before becoming eligible for parole. For example, a person sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated drug trafficking must serve at least 17 calendar years of their sentence before they can be considered for parole. A person who is serving a life sentence in Oklahoma will be considered eligible for parole after 38 years and 4 months in prison. How is a life sentence calculated in Oklahoma? Life sentencing in Oklahoma are considered to be 45 years in prison for purposes of parole.
Aggravated Drug Trafficking is only one felony that is subject to the 85 percent rule. This rule is mostly reserved for violent or heinous felonies, including but not limited to: First- and Second-Degree Murder, Assault with Intent to Kill, First-Degree Burglary, Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult in a Nursing Home, First-Degree Rape, Child Prostitution, and Human Trafficking.
For more information about the 85% rule and how an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can help, visit:
FACTORS IN SENTENCING
Once a judge or jury finds a defendant guilty, the judge has some discretion regarding sentencing, and a sentencing hearing allows both prosecutors and defendants the chance to present evidence for the court to consider. The factors can be aggravating factors which might push the judge to give a higher sentence or mitigating factors which push the judge towards a lighter sentence. Having an experienced attorney who can advocate for a better sentence is crucial if you have been convicted of a crime.
At sentencing, prosecutors often offer evidence of aggravating factors that may sway the judge to order a harsher sentence. Criminal statutes often identify specific factors that should result in harsher punishments, such as:
- Repeat offenses and prior convictions which show a pattern of behavior
- Use of a weapon during the commission of the crime which resulted in or had potential to result in more serious damage than if the weapon was not there
- Vulnerability of the victim, such as age, mental capacity, illness, or injury
- Extreme cruelty or malice
- Defendant’s leadership role in the crime, and whether he or she controlled or influenced others during the commission of the crime
- severity of the injuries suffered by a victim
- Lack of remorse for the crime committed
- Failure to take responsibility for the crime committed
Mitigating factors can be brought by the defense during sentencing, which help to show the client deserves a lighter sentence. Mitigating factors are a powerful way for your Fierce Advocate to seek a lighter sentence or mercy, and tell the judge your story to show a complete picture of who you are and what lead you to where you are today. In some cases, the difference at sentencing can be lengthy prison sentencing or no jail time at all. Some common mitigating factors include:
- A lack of criminal history
- Youthfulness of the offender
- Circumstances in the offender’s life
- Remorse for the crime committed
- A long time between unrelated convictions which does not show a pattern of behavior.
- Minor role in the crime, and whether the defendant was only an accessory and not the main offender.
- Defendant’s mental state, and whether they only acted upon their temporary impaired judgment.
- Lack of harm to the victim
PLEA AGREEMENTS WITH THE STATE
In most criminal cases there will be an opportunity to work out a plea agreement with prosecution and avoid the high end of the punishment range on the specific case. Sentencing plea agreements can involve a number of benefits, including the following:
- Deferred Sentence Plea Agreement: in a deferred sentence plea agreement, you may avoid jail time and will have an opportunity to avoid a misdemeanor or felony conviction. Deferred Sentence simply means sentencing is delayed or set off for a period of time, often a year or longer. Upon successful completion of the terms of your probation, i.e. drug and alcohol assessment, community service, restitution, if applicable, and potentially other conditions, you case will be dismissed at sentencing. Put another way, if you do what is required of you on a deferred sentence and have no new criminal charges, your case will be dismissed eventually.
- Suspended Sentence Plea Agreement: in a suspended sentence plea agreement, you are sentenced to jail or prison; however, you serving that confinement is suspended upon conditions. In a Suspended Sentence, you must complete the terms of your probation, which are often more intense than a deferred sentence. Upon successful completion of your terms of probation and no new criminal charges, you can avoid jail or prison time. Your incarceration is set off or suspended; however, you still receive the conviction in your case.
- Suspended in Part Plea Agreement: in a suspended in part sentence, you would be sentenced to jail or prison and a portion of your sentence would be suspended, i.e. you would not have to serve the entire sentence in custody. For example, if you were sentenced to one year in jail, all suspended except the first 10 days in jail for a serious DUI offense, you would go into custody and when the sheriff determines you have completed the first 10 days, you would be released on probation. Suspended in part sentences exist in felony cases as well, however, the defendant would enter prison for a period of time, as opposed to jail.
- Blind Plea Sentencing: in a blind plea sentencing there is no plea agreement between you and the prosecutor. In some instances, your criminal defense attorney will be able to convince the prosecutor to stand on their plea offer or a range of punishment that they will request from the court; however, the judge decides the sentence. Blind pleas are so named, because the defendant is blind to the outcome of sentence and at the mercy of the Court. In some cases, this option is a good choice, if you do not want to go to trial and
you are unable to reach an agreement with the prosecution. The judge will hear information from both sides and decide the outcome or sentence in your case after consideration of evidence from both sides and any presentencing reports or investigations presented.
DANGER OF PROBATION
Delayed sentencing can sometimes be delayed incarceration. Some terms of probation can be difficult to complete, if you do not have a Fierce Advocate on your side fighting to give you the opportunity to succeed on probation. Delayed sentencing on a serious charge can result in a very heavy sentence, if you violate probation or pick up a new crime.
Application to Accelerate Deferred Sentence: You can be sentenced to any punishment within the punishment range, if you have an application to accelerate filed prior to the completion of your probation. For instance, if you are on a five-year deferred sentence in a felony case and are charged with a new crime after four years and an application to accelerate is filed only two months before the termination of your deferred sentence; your sentence can be accelerated to prison time.
Application to Revoke Suspended Sentence: On a suspended sentence, if you are alleged to have committed a violation, an application to revoke can be filed to seek to revoke the entirely of your suspended sentence, i.e. if you are on a five-year suspended sentence and an application to revoke is filed after four and a half years of probation, you could be sentenced to five year in prison.
Conclusion on Sentencing
Whatever the criminal charges you or a loved one are facing in Oklahoma, it is important to understand the process of a criminal case in Oklahoma and the sentences you or your loved one may face as a result of criminal charges. Whether you want to fight your charges all the way to jury trial or wish to enter a plea agreement, we can assist you in understanding your options and fight for you, if we are the right fit.
Contact – Cannon & Associates: Oklahoma Criminal Defense Advocates
Experience matters when you are facing sentencing for a crime in Oklahoma. It is important to know the Oklahoma criminal defense lawyer you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of criminal law and criminal sentencing in Oklahoma. Cannon & Associates is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy and will fight for you throughout your case.
No one wants to go to jail, and Cannon & Associates is here to support and guide you through all of your options so that you can obtain the best results possible. We are dedicated to helping you resolve your dispute in the most advantageous way and support you during this difficult time. Founder John Cannon has been recognized as a Super Lawyer and National Trial Lawyer Top 40 under 40 and knows what it takes to get you the outcome you seek. Contact Cannon & Associates to protect your rights and fight for your case in Oklahoma. Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-657-2323 for a free confidential case evaluation.