The Oklahoma criminal process for felonies isn’t just scary. It’s complicated. At Morton Law Group, our mission is to help Oklahomans who have been charged with crimes. As part of that mission, we want to ensure that you know exactly what to expect throughout the felony case process.
Below, we discuss each major step in the Oklahoma felony case process and what it means for you. Your criminal defense attorneys at Morton Law Group can give you personalized advice about your unique case, but the below outline should give you an idea of the general steps in the process.
Your initial appearance is the first time you appear in court. It’s usually between one and two days after the arrest. Here, the judge is going to cover the following:
The judge will also set a new court date for your next appearance.
A lot happens at your initial appearance, and many of the decisions the court makes here will affect your entire case. That is why this is an ideal time to involve an attorney in the Oklahoma felony case process — if not earlier.
Below, we take a look at what goes into the judge’s decision about your bail at the initial appearance.
Often called pre-trial release, bail is the set of requirements the court will set in order for you to be released from jail before your trial. The point of these conditions is to ensure that you come back to court for your next appearance. Most often, they ensure that by making it so that you will have to pay an enormous amount of money if you fail to appear.
Surety bond. A licensed bondsman can post a surety bond with the court on your behalf. This money guarantees that you will return to court; fail to do so, and the money is lost. The bondsman will likely charge you 10% of the total bond amount the court requires.
Cash bond. A cash bond is what it sounds like: cash. You can post cash with the court clerk until your case is over. At that point, you can ask for the money back — assuming that you showed up for court.
Property bond. This is an uncommon type of bond in Oklahoma, but it does happen sometimes. A property bond allows you to put your own property up as the bond.
Bail is primarily about money, but courts can set some non-monetary requirements for your bail. These additional bail requirements are typically tailored to the felony you are accused of. For example, if you are accused of felony domestic violence, you may be forbidden from contacting the alleged victim. If your case is serious, you may have to wear an ankle monitor.
These are only a small sample of the additional bail requirements Oklahoma courts can set, but no matter what the requirement is, if you break it, you risk being sent back to jail.
Discovery is an important part of the felony process because it allows your defense attorney a chance to start building defense arguments. Also, in reviewing the evidence, we will look for holes in the case against you. If we find some, we may be able to use them to negotiate a deal with the prosecution.
Also called the status conference, the preliminary hearing conference is when you and your attorney can review your case and any plea offer that is on the table. Courts schedule these conferences to allow you to decide whether you want to have a preliminary hearing.
Depending on the unique details of your case, it may be wise to skip the preliminary hearing and go straight to the district court arraignment — but this depends heavily on the details of your case. Your attorney will advise you of the best course when the time comes.
Every person charged with a Felony is entitled to a Preliminary Hearing where the Court will determine if Probable Cause exists for your case to proceed to trial. Probable Cause is the lowest burden of proof in the criminal justice system. The Court is charged with simply determining two elements: 1) whether a crime was committed; and 2) there is probable cause to believe that you committed the crime.
If the Court determines that the prosecutor did not meet their burden, then the case will be dismissed. Alternative, if the Court may find that probable cause exists to.
Being arraigned before the district court will in some ways feel like your initial appearance because the court will inform you of the charges you are now facing. More importantly, the court will schedule key dates in your case, such as trial dates and deadlines to file motions.
A plea agreement removes the need for a trial. This is an agreement between the defense and prosecution to a particular sentence, reduced charges, or a similar arrangement. Especially in Oklahoma criminal courts with crowded dockets, prosecutors are generally favorable to plea deals in order to clear trials off of the schedule.
If your attorneys and the prosecutor have come to an agreement on sentencing (and you approve of it, too), we will present the plea deal to the court for approval. This is called a negotiated plea.
If we can’t reach an agreement with the prosecutor, we may still consider a blind plea. This is a plea we enter to the court without knowing what the punishment will be. If the court accepts the blind plea, it will decide your sentence or other penalties.
When a plea agreement is either not advisable or not possible, your case will proceed to trial. Your trial can be a non-jury trial or a jury trial:
Non-jury trial. In a non-jury trial, your attorneys make your case to the judge, and the judge decides whether you are guilty and what penalties you should face.
Jury trial. In a jury trial, your defense attorney presents your case to a jury. In this case, the jury will decide whether you are innocent and what your punishment should be.
No matter what kind of trial you face, your attorneys will work tirelessly to defend you and protect your rights.