How Is A Drug Offense Determined To Be A Misdemeanor Or A Felony?
Drug Laws Changed
The state of Oklahoma drug charges has recently changed. Oklahoma voters decided during the November 2016 election that simple possession of all drugs should be considered misdemeanors. As a result, if you are arrested for possession of any controlled and dangerous substance you will be charged with a misdemeanor. However, misdemeanors do still carry jail time and can have a significant effect in your life. Furthermore, this change shouldn’t give anyone a false sense of security. If you are arrested for a drug related charge, it is still vital that you do not make any statements regarding the charges. A wrong statement can easily turn your misdemeanor charge into a felony.
There are different ways that you can be charged with drug crimes that will automatically make them felonies. For example, if you have marijuana, which normally would be charged as a misdemeanor, but the officer can show evidence that you intended to distribute the marijuana, they can charge you with a felony called Possession with the Intent to Distribute. Typically, evidence of you distributing a drug can be anything from having scales, having multiple baggies, larger quantities of the drug, or even you casually saying that you were going to share with a friend. Officers can then use any of that to increase your charge to a felony.
Another way to automatically get a drug charge bumped up to a felony is to be within 1,000 feet of a school or park when you are caught. For example, say you have marijuana in the car with you and you get pulled over for a traffic stop and you happen to be a thousand feet from a school or a park. Possession of even the misdemeanor level drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or a park is automatically going to bump you up to a felony charge. Lastly, if you have one of those misdemeanor type drugs, but you have it in the presence of a child under 12, that too will bump it up to a felony. To be clear, the presence of a child under 12 doesn’t necessarily mean that you are smoking marijuana in front of the child. This could be that you have the drug in a different room in the house and the child is present in the house. The officer can go ahead and charge you with the felony charge. There are other types of charges that are automatically charged as felonies, like drug trafficking, which all has to do with the amount of drugs that you were in possession of.
What Are The Penalties Associated With A Drug Offense Conviction In Oklahoma?
There are a variety of drug charges you can be charged with, and as such there are a variety of sentences that you could be exposed to. When you are talking about a simple possession of controlled and dangerous substance t will be a misdemeanor and carries up to 1 year in county jail, and up to a $1,000 fine. However, if you are charged with possession with intent to distribute, the punishment starting out first-time offense is 2 years, up till life in prison.
If you are charged with possession with intent to distribute of cocaine or crack, the range of punishment is a little higher. That carries 5 years to life in prison. Now, all of these felony charges can be enhanced by prior convictions. Prior convictions for charges that are not drug related will enhance differently than they will if you have prior convictions for drug related charges. It’s important to note with drug prior convictions, that even if you have a prior drug charge which was pled out to a probationary sentence that did not result in a conviction, that can still be used against you to enhance future drug charges within a 10-year period.
If you get hit with another possession with the intent to distribute, that’s going to put your range of punishment starting at 4 years in the Department of Corrections, up to life in prison. Possession with intent for cocaine or crack that is going to be 10 years, up to life in prison. When you are looking at trafficking cases, trafficking again is based on the weight of the drug that you are found to have. First time trafficking offense carries a minimum of 4 years, up to life in prison. A second offense is going to be 6 years, up to life in prison. If you have two prior drug convictions and you get arrested for drug trafficking, you could face a minimum of 20 years, up to life without the possibility of parole in the Department of Corrections. Drug crimes are taken extraordinarily serious in the state of Oklahoma, and you don’t want to try to fight this alone because you are talking about significant if not the entire remainder of your life.
Are Any Alternative Programs Available For Some Of The Lighter Drug Offenses?
There is the possibility of drug court, which is an intensive program in which you can plea into the drug court program. There are a lot of things that you have to do—you have to go to court very frequently, you have work programs. If you are successful in drug court, then your case gets dismissed. If you are not, you have already signed an agreement in which you are going to do time in prison. So it’s not something to be taken lightly because it’s going to be a significant amount of responsibility on your part to complete it. Otherwise, you could end up in prison. There are some things that can keep you out of drug court, including convictions or even arrests for violent crimes in your past.