Oklahoma Criminal Process
The criminal process can often be confusing and feel overwhelming. Understanding the procedure will help alleviate some of the stress and help you or your loved one to not feel lost in the system.
Oklahoma Criminal Investigation and Arrest
There are two ways that a crime can be committed. It can either happen in the presence of a law enforcement officer or when there is no law enforcement officer present.
When a crime is reported by a citizen, law enforcement will have to conduct an investigation to determine what, if anything, happened and if they can gather enough evidence to identify and arrest a suspect. If the evidence leads to a suspect, the investigating officer(s) will submit a Probable Cause Affidavit to the Prosecuting Attorney seeking authorization to file formal charges and make an arrest.
The District Attorney or an Assistant District Attorney will be the Prosecuting Attorney. They will evaluate the evidence provided and decide if charges will be filed and what crimes will be alleged.
That means the Prosecutor can charge you with the crime you were arrested for or some other crime she feels better fits the evidence the police agency has provided. Additionally, the prosecutor can add or decline charges or send the case back to the agency for more investigation.
Oklahoma Criminal District Court Arraignment
For both misdemeanor and felony charges, the defendant will first appear before a judge for arraignment. The defendant will be formally informed of the charges, the maximum penalty if convicted, and his constitutional rights such as a trial by jury, a court-appointed lawyer, etc.
The judge will also set the conditions and amount of the bond. Most importantly the defendant will enter a plea of Not Guilty at this hearing.
After the arraignment, the Court will set the case for a misdemeanor disposition date. It is at the disposition that a case can be pled or set for trial.
Often in smaller counties, the Judge or Prosecutor may encourage or pressure the defendant to enter a plea of guilty at the arraignment. It is never a good idea to enter into a plea agreement without talking to an attorney first. You have the right to ask the Court for a new court date so that you may hire an attorney.
At an arraignment for a felony crime, the defendant enters a plea of not guilty and the case is set for a conference date. At that conference date, your attorney speaks with the prosecutor and possibly plea negotiations happen. The case may be set for a preliminary hearing at the conference date.
A preliminary hearing is a hearing in front of a judge in which the prosecutor must put on evidence to show there is probable cause that the defendant committed the felony crimes she is charged with. There is no right to a preliminary hearing on a misdemeanor charge.
If the Judge finds probable cause she will set the case before the trial judge and another court date will be set. This date is sometimes called a Pre-trial conference. It is from that conference that a case can be set for trial.
Oklahoma Criminal Trial
If the case goes to trial, it can be a trial by jury, or, if both sides agree, the right to a jury trial can be waived and it will become a bench trial—a trial where the judge, rather than a jury, listens to the evidence and decides guilt or innocence.
During the trial, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant does not have to prove his innocence Or even present any evidence.
It is entirely the burden of the prosecutor to prove the case. If it is a jury they must reach a unanimous agreement of either guilty or not guilty.
Oklahoma Criminal Sentencing
If the defendant is found guilty, the next step will be sentencing. If the defendant is found guilty by a jury the jury will recommend a sentence, however, it is the Judge that has the final say. The judge may take such things into consideration as statements from victims, evidence provided by prosecutors, or other information he considers to be relevant to sentencing.
Right to Appeal Criminal Convictions in Oklahoma
Anyone convicted of a crime in Oklahoma has the right to appeal through the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The appeals process is very time-sensitive, however. Some procedures must be followed and requirements met within time periods set forth in state statutes.
Do you still have questions about how the criminal process works in the state of Oklahoma? Set up a consultation today. You’ll be able to speak with an experienced Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney that will be happy to answer all of your questions and concerns. Consultations are friendly and free.