The criminal justice system can be very confusing and scary. While you have the right to represent yourself in court, the advice of a lawyer is invaluable. While you may not feel you have the money to hire a lawyer, you may not be able to afford not to have a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer and are charged with an offense which caries possible jail or prison time, you are entitled to a court-appointed lawyer at state expense.
Q: What is a Crime?
A: Crimes are generally classified as felonies or misdemeanors. Generally, felonies are punished by a sentence of one year or more in prison. Misdemeanors are generally punished by one year or less in a county jail. Probation is also a possibility. Under probation, a person would not serve any time in jail or in prison.
Q: When should I retain an attorney?
A: You may retain an attorney at any time, regardless of how far along your case may have progressed. It is most often best to retain an attorney when you first learn that there may be an investigation.
Q: What is a Criminal Proceeding?
A: The following definitions are provided to explain the criminal justices process:
a. Arrest and Booking: This is when a police officer takes you into custody and takes you to jail. The process of actually putting you in jail is called booking.
b. Initial Appearance (Commonly referred to as "Arraignment"): If you are charged with a felony, this will be the first time you will go before a judge. Your legal rights will be described for you, and a bond will be set for you which you must arrange to pay before you may be released from jail. In some cases, this bond may be an Own-Recognizance Bond ("O.R. Bond") which requires no payment of money to a bondsman. You also will be told the next time you are to appear in court. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, this initial hearing is called an arraignment.
c. Preliminary Hearing Conference: This hearing may also be called a pre-preliminary hearing or an announcement docket. Generally, these hearings are a time for the prosecutor to make a plea bargain offer to you and your attorney. If you decide to accept the offer, you would waive or give up your right to a preliminary hearing and set your case for a date for you to plead guilty. If you do not accept the plea offer, you will have your case set for a preliminary hearing.
d. Preliminary Hearing: A preliminary hearing is a court hearing where witness testify and the judge decides whether there is enough evidence against you to order you to have a trial. If the court believes there is enough evidence to believe a crime was committed (often, this is called probable cause), the court will "bind you over" for trial. If the court does not believe there is enough evidence, the case is dismissed.
e. Jury Call Docket: This is a hearing where you and your lawyer meet with the judge and the assistant district attorney to announce that you want a trial or to plead guilty.
f. Plea or Disposition Docket: At this hearing you will appear with your attorney and plead guilty or “no contest” to a judge. At this hearing the court will announce your punishment based on your plea bargain agreement with the district attorney's office. If the judge thinks the punishment is not harsh enough, you will be allowed to withdraw your plea of guilty and have a trial.
g. Blind Plea: If you do not have a plea bargain agreement with the district attorney's office, you may still plead guilty. This type of plea is often called a “blind plea.” In this situation, you do not know the punishment the judge will give you and you are throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. If you do not like the punishment the court decides is appropriate for you, you do not have the right to have your case set for trial.
h. Jury Trial: This is a hearing where a jury decided whether you are guilty of the crime with which you have been charged.
i. Non-Jury or Bench Trial: This is a hearing where the judge will determine if you are guilty of the crime with which you have been charged.
j. Deferred Sentence: You are not convicted of a crime until you are found guilty and punished for the crime. With a deferred sentence, the judge finds you guilty of the crime but postpones, delays or defers sentencing until a later date (from one day to five years). If you do everything the court orders you to do, the court will dismiss your case and the charge will not appear on your record. You may be ordered to pay all court costs and fees, see a probation officer, go to treatment and to make sure you do not break the law again.
k. Suspended Sentence: You are convicted of a crime, but are on probation for all or part of the sentence; it is suspended so you do not have to go to prison for that amount of time, as long as you satisfy the conditions of probation. The probation may be “supervised” or “unsupervised.” If it is “supervised”, you must regularly report to a probation officer, if it is “unsupervised,” you simply must obey the ruled of probation and not break the law.
l. Bench Warrant: A bench warrant is an order by the court to have you arrested because you failed to appear in court when the court told you to appear.
Q: What should I do if I get arrested for any of the following? DUI, DWI, Possession with intent to sell, driving with a suspended license, VPO, larceny, domestic abuse, disturbing the peace and gun possession without a permit?
A: (1) Do not give anybody permission to search anything, (2) Do not talk with or give a statement to the police, (3) Arrange for bail, (4) Call your attorney.
Q: What can happen to me if I do not seek an attorney?
A: Anyone who is charged with a crime should hire an attorney with experience in criminal defense to represent them. This is the best way to make sure that their rights are protected and that they obtain the best possible outcome.
Q: What is a DUI and DWI and what are the differences?
A: A DUI is issued when the blood alcohol content of a person is alleged to be .08 or over a DWI is issued when a persons blood alcohol content is .05-.079. A DUI can be used to make a later DUI a felony and it can cause your license to be suspended for six (6) months in the event of a conviction.
Q: What does it mean to have a felony on my record?
A: Your record is serious business. Any person who has a felony criminal record has a seriously handicapped future. Most professions and fields of interest are closed as far as you are concerned. Commissions in the service, political office and security clearance cannot be obtained. The following is a list of the things that are denied to one “with a record”- just by Oklahoma law: A felon can never:
Sit on a jury
Run for public office
Possible not even have a driver's license
Become a corporate director
Executor or Administrator of an estate
A liquor dealer
Official shorthand reporter
And he/she might just as well forget the professions of:
Q: How can you help as my attorney?
A: An attorney can help by making sure all of your constitutional rights are protected as well as using their knowledge of the legal system to get you all of the benefit which the law allows.
Q: How much will it cost?
A: Each case is different and it will depend on a lot of factors, such as, previous criminal history, how serious the charge is, the jurisdiction in which you are charged, who the victim is, etc.
Q: What if I am arrested and I don't believe that I should have been?
A: Hire and attorney.
Q: If I am arrested and not charged, can I petition for Expungement?
A: Yes, if the statute of limitations had expired.
No, if it has been less that two (2) years.
Q: If I am tired and acquitted?
Q: If I am tired and convicted of a felony, I was under 18 years of age at the time of the conviction and I have received a full pardon?
Q: Am I entitled to seek Expungement if I was convicted of a felony and have never been pardoned?
Q: If I was over 18 years of age, I was tired and convicted of a felony, I have been pardoned, I have had no other convictions and it has been more than 10 years since I was convicted?
Q: I have been convicted of more than one misdemeanor?
Q: If I have been convicted of only one misdemeanor, there are nor charges pending against me and it has been more than 10 years since I was convicted?
Q: If I was convicted but the conviction was reversed and the District Attorney dismissed the charges?
Q: I was convicted and the Court of Criminal Appeals instructed the District Court to dismiss charges?
Q: If I have the right to seek Expungement is the Court obligated to grant the relief that I seek?
A: Not necessarily. If the district attorney, arresting agency or the State of Oklahoma objects to the Expungement, the Court will conduct a hearing an decide if the objecting agency's interest in keeping the records outweighs your privacy interest.
Q: Does a court have to order all records expunged?
A: No. A court may issue an order granting or denying the petition as to all arrest and court records or limited portions of those records. For example, the District Attorney's records are not accessible to the public and the court typically do not order district attorneys to expunge their internal records.
Q: Can I represent myself?
Q: What is the effect of an Expungement?
A: An order granting an Expungement causes the underlying incident to be deemed never to have occurred. Employers, educational institutions, state and local government agencies, officials, and employees shall not, in any application or interview or otherwise, require an application to disclose any information contained in sealed records. A successful Expungement does not, however, require law enforcement agencies to seal basic identification information.