When it comes to rankings, Oklahoma is up there for the number of citizens who go to jail. The kicker is that the number of incarcerated Oklahomans is highest for those who have committed a non-violent crime. The numbers are also high when looking at the total number of female inmates, as well as African American prisoners. To some, these numbers were alarming enough to push for substantial change to our criminal justice system. And last November, even though it might be hard to remember there were a number of other issues on the ballot than just the race between HRC and Trump, Oklahoma voters passed measures to start making those changes. State Questions 780 and 781 were passed at election time, and the time to start implementation is near.
Here are some things to know about these new laws:
• The choice to go to drug court to resolve a charge against you may be diminished. Simple possession will no longer be considered a felony, which for some counties means the option to go to drug court as part of the judicial resolution of your case no longer exists. Without this alternative, we might see a spike in the population of our already overcrowded prisons.
• Will local police be given the power to ticket an offender for simple possession, regardless of the substance? The answer is “it is a possibility”, but the ticket would be a city ticket and never find its way to county court. That means the prosecution would not have any record of the ticket, which could save a defendant the need to enter a treatment program as part of their case. Whether this is a plus or a minus remains to be seen, because sometimes these programs offer help that certain defendants are not able to get elsewhere.
• Drugs at or near schools and other facilities where children are will now be considered misdemeanors. The idea is that if the offender is youthful, treatment and rehabilitation are better choices than jail time.
Here at the Hosty Law Office we keep on top of changes to the laws in areas we practice, so we can continually give you the best advice and offer the highest level of representation. If you have questions about how these new laws might impact you, call us to learn more. Every case is different, and application of the law to the specific facts of your case requires thoughtful analysis. We work hard to strike just the right balance between fairness and equality, while respecting the process and those that work within the system.