Accused of a Crime in Oklahoma
What you need to know if charged with a crime in Oklahoma
Being arrested is a scary ordeal, especially if it’s your first time. More than likely, you won’t know what to do or where to turn. One thing is for sure; if you are facing criminal charges, you will need an experienced Oklahoma criminal defense attorney who knows the system forwards and backwards. Below is a brief summary of how the Oklahoma criminal justice system works. We hope this information will be helpful in understanding what you can expect in the upcoming days and months.
I have been arrested. What happens now?
After you have been arrested for the first time, your first goal is to get out of jail. How do get out of jail? Oklahoma courts will set a bond for you. The purpose of making a person post a bond is to protect the public and ensure that the person appears at all scheduled court appearances. Generally, the more serious the crime, the higher the bond will be. For example, if you are arrested for a first offense D.U.I., a judge will commonly set your bond at anywhere from $1,000 - $5,000. If you are arrested and charged with a violent crime such as Rape or Robbery, your bond could be set anywhere from $25,000 - $100,000 on average. If you are looking to “bond out,” you have two options:
- First option– Post a Cash Bond.
This means that you will pay cash for the full amount of the bond. For example, if the judge sets your bond at $2,000, you would pay the full $2,000 and you would be released. The $2,000 is held by the courts to ensure that you appear at any and all court appearances. If at any time you fail to appear, the Court may forfeit this money. At the end of your case, if you have appeared at scheduled appearances, this money will be returned to you.
- Second option – Hire a Bondsman.
Using the same scenario as above, if your bond is set at $2,000, you hire a bondsman who will post the $2,000 for you. To do this, the bondsman generally requires that you pay a percentage of the bond to the bondsman. In other words, you pay the bondsman $200 as a non-refundable fee. The bondsman is responsible for the remaining $1,800. If you ever fail to appear for court, the bondsman will send a bounty hunter to bring you before the court within 30 days or pay the $1,800.
How does the criminal system work?
The first thing you need to understand is what type of crime you are charged with. There are generally two types of crimes; felonies and misdemeanors. A felony is any crime that potentially carries in excess of one year in prison. A misdemeanor is any crime that potentially carries a penalty ranging from a fine up to one year of jail time. Violent crimes like Robbery, Rape, Burglary, etc., are almost always charged as felonies. Non violent crimes such as Bogus Checks, Petit Larceny, and Driving Under Suspension are usually charged as misdemeanors. Some crimes such as D.U.I. and Domestic Abuse can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the incident and the defendant’s history of similar charges.
How will I know when to go to court?
After your release from custody, you are generally given an arraignment date. Most people hire a bondsman to “bond out” of jail, and your bondsman will generally give you your arraignment date. An arraignment is a court date where you are formally charged with a crime(s). A judge will read the crime(s) you are charged with, ask whether you plead guilty or not guilty, and give you your next court date. At every subsequent court date, your lawyer will give you your next court date. If you are ever unsure as to your next court date, call your lawyer or your bondsman. Both your lawyer and your bondsman should always know your next court date.
What if I’m Charged with a Misdemeanor?
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the judge will set your case on a “Disposition Docket.” This is a court date where your attorney can either set your case for jury trial, or if applicable, negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
What if I’m Charged with a Felony?
If you are charged with a felony, at arraignment, most courts set your case for Preliminary Hearing Conference (PHC). This usually occurs between 30-60 days after arraignment. A Preliminary Hearing Conference is a court date where your lawyer meets with the prosecutor to analyze your case and discuss your case. Often times the prosecutor will have a “recommendation” at the PHC. A recommendation is what the prosecution is offering as a plea bargain. If the recommendation is satisfactory to the Defendant, the Defendant can plead guilty at that time. If the Defendant did not commit the crimes as accused or if the State’s recommendation is unacceptable, the case is set for Preliminary Hearing. A Preliminary Hearing is an official hearing where the prosecution must prove probable cause that the defendant committed the crimes as alleged. “Probable Cause” is an extremely low burden to meet and the prosecution will often need to call only a portion of the witnesses they intend to call at trial. If the Defendant wins the hearing, the case is dismissed. However, because of this extremely low level of proof the prosecution is required to show, the prosecution wins over 90% of Preliminary Hearings. If the prosecution wins the hearing, the defendant is given a date for a jury trial.
It would be impossible to explain how to effectively conduct a jury trial in a few pages. There are entire volumes of books written on this subject. A jury trial is like almost anything else; the more you do it, the better you get at it, and at Phillips & Associates, you will find attorneys who successfully try more cases than anyone in the state of Oklahoma. Don’t take our word for it. See our results for yourself.