The United States Declaration of Independence states “. . . That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." In his famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln exhorted the American people “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Leaders throughout our nation’s history have realized that while we are a nation of laws, the will of the people is the source of our laws. Why does the Oklahoma State House of Representatives not seem to understand this simple premise?
Last November, the people of Oklahoma voted to reform our state’s criminal justice system. The people of Oklahoma realized that making felons out of people for simply possessing illegal drugs didn’t make sense. The people of Oklahoma realized that the state would save money by not prosecuting possession charges as felonies. The ink wasn’t even dry on the new law before the Oklahoma State House of Representatives took it upon themselves to defy the will of the people because “the people of Oklahoma didn’t understand the consequences of their vote.”
Enter House Bill 1482, deceptively introduced as the “Keep Oklahoma Children Safe from Illegal Drugs Act of 2017.” What could possibly be wrong with protecting children? Nothing, but this bill has never been about protecting children. This bill is about a lot of District Attorneys and legislators not getting their way. This bill is about the legislature knowing better than you. As originally introduced the HB1482 would have made it a felony to possess illegal drugs within 1000 feet of the real property comprising a: day care, public or private college or university, other institution of higher education, church, recreation center or public park including state parks, fairgrounds and recreation areas, or in the presence of any child under 12 years of age. How in the world can anyone say with a straight face that the only goal of felonizing drug possession within 1000 feet of a church or university is ONLY aimed at protecting children?
To its credit, the Oklahoma State Senate has published an engrossed (amended) version of the bill that reduces the so called “felony zones” to within 1000 feet of the real property comprising: a public or private elementary or secondary school, public vocational school, or in the presence of any child under twelve (12) years of age. On the surface this version of the bill appears to be aimed at protecting children better than the first version of the bill, but don’t be fooled. How is simply POSSESSING (not in any way selling drugs or exposing children to drug use) illegal drugs within three football fields of a school threatening to our children? This bill is what’s classically described as a solution looking for a problem.
Proposed punishments for violating the provisions set forth by this bill are progressive in nature. For a first offense, the bill prescribes a term of imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years and/or a fine not exceeding $2,500.00. For s second or subsequent offense, the bill prescribes a term of imprisonment not exceeding ten (10) years and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000.00.
Further, the defendant with a second or subsequent offense “shall serve a minimum of eighty-five percent (85%) of the sentence received prior to becoming eligible for state correctional institution earned credits toward the completion of said sentence.” Wow! Let’s think about that for a minute. This bill would essentially make a second-time drug possession offense (within 1000 feet of a school) an 85% crime. The other 85% crimes are listed in 21 O.S. 13.1 and include crimes such as First Degree Murder, Robbery with a dangerous weapon, and First Degree Rape. Someone caught with a baggie of weed in their pocket a couple of times within 1000 feet of a school does not under any circumstances warrant the same treatment as a murderer or rapist with regards to mandatory sentence length. This silly notion only makes the problem worse. The people of Oklahoma realized that prisons were overcrowded with non-violent offenders at taxpayer expense. The people of Oklahoma voted to reform the criminal justice system. The legislature in Oklahoma is ignoring the people.
Please contact your state Senator immediately and let them know that they need to kill this ridiculous bill. Please let him/her know that you are watching and that you will remember his/her conduct when you vote in the next election. Finally, please share this with everyone you know and urge them to do the same thing. It is time for the people of Oklahoma to stand up and be heard.
All versions of the bill can be found here
As an attorney, I strive to remain neutral and detached when providing information about changes to Oklahoma criminal law. Sometimes it's simply impossible to do so. Last November the people of Oklahoma voted for the passage of State Question 780, which reduces all simple drug possession charges to a misdemeanor. Not content to accept the will of the people, two state senators have authored bills to amend the newly passed law. The bills proposed are SB256 and SB398.
Of the two bills, SB398 is the least draconian and will be discussed first. As provided by SB398, "Any person convicted of a third or subsequent offense in this section shall be guilty of a felony punishable by confinement in the custody of the Department of Corrections of not more than five (5) years and by a fine not exceeding Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00)." In other words, three strikes and you're a felon.
Like SB398, the bill designated as SB256 provides for a "three strikes and you're a felon" approach but does seem to make an exception for marijuana. After three convictions, SB256 ratchets up the penalties for subsequent convictions.
Further, SB256 provides that any person who violates the law by possessing a controlled dangerous substance within five hundred (500) feet of a school shall be guilty of a felony. No exception is made for marijuana in this provision. Think about that.
Perhaps worst of all, SB256 provides that "In any case in which a defendant is charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance within any municipality with a municipal court other than a court of record, the charge shall be presented to the county's district attorney and filed with the district court of the county within which the municipality is located." In other words, the vast majority of local police departments will have no discretion as to where to submit charges. This bill wrests control from municipalities and gives it to the state. District court dockets will become backlogged even further and state correctional facilities will become even more over crowded.
Please call/write/email your state representatives and demand that they take all possible actions to defeat these bills.
Full text of SB256
Full text of SB398
A DUI is a very serious offense, and Oklahoma courts do not take these matters lightly. Even if this is your first offense, the punishments are no less serious. They still come with a number of criminal and administrative penalties that can only be resolved with the help of a DUI defense lawyer.
So what may you expect when you've been charged with your first DUI?
If you're worried about what's to come following your first DUI, call the Law Offices of Adam Williams. With only a 15-day window to file for a DPS hearing, there's no time to waste. Call today.
If you've recently been charged with DUI, you may not believe that you need a DUI defense lawyer. Once the damage has been done, many people believe that they have no hope of making things right. But the reality is that the average person will drive under the influence about 80 times before receiving a DUI, and you may have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
You don't need a lawyer to plead guilty to a DUI charge, but whether or not you were intoxicated, you have options to eliminate or reduce your sentence. But to do so, you'll need a DUI defense lawyer.
But how do you know if you've found the right one? Here are some tips to keep you on track to receive proper DUI help.
I'd like to take a moment to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Don't forget the reason for the season folks. Give generously and forgive quickly.
The holidays are a season of hope. No matter how bad your circumstances are, all is not lost. Life will go on and things will get better. Never give up.
While thousands of people drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol every day, only a small portion are arrested. Regardless, DUI charges are extremely serious offenses that can follow you for years, affecting your ability to apply for jobs as well as your ability to operate a vehicle if your license is suspended.
While your DUI attorney is your advocate and will swear to defend you to the best of their ability, there are certain things that they wish you knew before charges were brought against you.
With the passage of State Questions 780 and 781, Oklahoma has made some truly smart reforms to the criminal justice system. On July 1, 2017 simple possession of drugs (with no intent to distribute/traffic) will be a misdemeanor. Repeated offenses will also be misdemeanors. Not making felons out of people charged with drug possession will save the state money. Felonies are more expensive to prosecute and prison dollars should be spent on people who are truly dangerous to society. People who are convicted of drug possession will no longer have their lives destroyed by being made unemployable by a "felon" label. The money saved by this change in the law is to be directed to rehabilitation facilities. The people of Oklahoma have chosen to help our citizens with drug dependency problems by rehabilitating them instead of locking them up and ostracizing them.
Additionally, State Question 780 increases the dollar amount threshold that must be crossed before larceny is elevated to grand larceny. Previously, if someone stole property valued higher than $500, larceny became grand larceny. As of July 1, 2017 the amount is raised to $1000. Put another way, the theft of a cell phone will no longer make someone a felon.
All changes made by SQ780 can be found here:
HB 2479 Makes Changes to 63 O.S. 2-402 by eliminating minimum sentences for first and second felony drug possession violations, reducing maximum sentences for all felony drug possession violations, and adding a section for third and subsequent felony drug possession violations.
The current version of 63 O.S. 2-402 (becoming obsolete on November 1, 2016) prescribes the following punishments for felony drug possession violations:
1. The first offense of possessing a schedule I or II substance (except marijuana), is a felony punishable by imprisonment for 2-10 years and a fine not exceeding $5000
2. Second or subsequent offenses of possessing a schedule I or II substance (except marijuana) are felonies punishable by imprisonment for 4-20 years and fines not exceeding $10,000
The new version of 63 O.S. 2-402 (taking effect on November 1, 2016) prescribes the following punishments for felony drug possession violations:
1. The first offense of possessing a schedule I or II substance (except marijuana), is a felony punishable by imprisonment for 0-5 years and a fine not exceeding $5000
2. The second offense of possessing a schedule I or II substance (except marijuana) is a felony punishable by imprisonment for 0-10 years and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
3. Third and subsequent offenses of possessing a schedule I or II substance (except marijuana) are felonies punishable by imprisonment for 4-15 years and fines not to exceed $10,000.
The entire text of HB2479 can be found here:
The new version of 63 O.S. 2-402 can be found here:
There is a brand new statute taking effect November 1, 2016, that will give prosecutors the ability to file charges as misdemeanors rather than felonies so long as they consider the appropriate factor. The primary factor is that the charges being filed aren't crimes listed in 21 O.S. 13.1 that mandate that the defendant serve at least 85% of his sentence. These "85 percent crimes" are very serious offenses such as Murder, First Degree Manslaughter, Assault With Intent to kill, etc. This new law, if used appropriately, will minimize the damage done to defendants committing minor offenses. Fewer people's lives can be ruined, and the taxpayer costs can go down as a result of fewer people being imprisoned.
The new statute, 22 O.S. 234, provides that:
When determining the appropriate charge for a person accused of committing a criminal offense, the district attorney shall have the discretion to file the charge as a misdemeanor offense rather than a felony offense after considering the following factors:
1. The criminal offense for which the person has been arrested is not listed as a criminal offense in Section 13.1 of Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes;
2. The nature of the criminal offense;
3. The age, background and criminal history of the person who committed the criminal offense;
4. The character and rehabilitation needs of the person who committed the criminal offense; and
5. Whether it is in the best interests of justice to file the charge as a misdemeanor offense rather than a felony offense.
Here is a link to the new statute:
Here is a complete list of "85 percent" crimes: