405-778-4800
Criminal Attorney Oklahoma Defense Lawyer Adam R. Banner OKLAHOMA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AT LAW
This Attorney is Lead Counsel Rated. Click here for more Information.

After Token Nod to "Smart on Crime Legislation," OK Attempts to Tighten the Reins

30-Jan-2017

It is always interesting to see what the Oklahoma legislature has up its sleeve during each year's legislative session. Certainly, some of the proposed bills get a lot of media attention, but other bills fly under the radar and go unnoticed by constituents until their representatives and senators have already voted to pass or reject the measure, regardless of what the people of Oklahoma actually want.

Last year, the state legislature made some progressive moves to replace "tough on crime" legislation with "smart on crime" legislation. Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation that has the world's highest incarceration rate. In other words, Oklahoma sends more of its people to prison than almost anywhere in the world.

Many of Oklahoma's inmates are behind bars for drug crimes--typically non-violent drug crimes that would yield much lighter sentences (or possibly not have even been a crime) if they occurred in almost any other state. 

It has quickly become apparent that this high incarceration rate and these tough drug laws were not really working to address any problem, and in fact, were generally only making the problem worse.

So in 2016, a number of criminal justice reform bills were passed that would lighten sentences for nonviolent offenders. 

For example, the state passed HB 2472, which created a new law, codified in 22 O.S. § 234, that would give District Attorneys discretion in filing charges, allowing them to file misdemeanor charges for crimes that are classified as felonies under state law if certain conditions are met. 

HB 2479 removed minimum sentencing for certain drug possession crimes and lessened the associated sentences. The legislature passed HB 2479 into law, and the will of the people was solidified when voters passed SQ 780, which reclassified simple drug possession as a misdemeanor. Previously, it was a felony to possess Schedule I or II drugs, with the exception of marijuana.

But after these moves in the right direction, some Oklahoma legislators are attempting to back-pedal, including one proposal to amend SQ 780 despite it clearly passing by a vote of the people.

Remember, Oklahoma voters just approved in November a measure that would make simple drug possession--possession for personal use--a misdemeanor. Two proposed senate bills want to make it a felony again.

Senate Bill 256 would amend State Question 780 to make drug possession offenses a felony after certain prior drug offenses. This bill would
also bring back a felony offense for possession within 500 feet (lowered from the current 1000) of a school, park, etc. This bill is authored by Sen. Michael Bergstrom (R). Sen. Bergstrom is the state senator for District 1, representing Craig County, Delaware County, Mayes County and Ottawa County.

Senate Bill 512 would completely amend State Question 780 and make all drug possession offenses for Schedule I and II, except marijuana, a
felonies, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, even on a first offense. This bill, which would completely overturn the
will of the people as demonstrated by their approval of SQ 780, was introduced by the Sen. Ralph Shortey (R). Sen. Shortey is the state senator for District 44, representing Oklahoma County.



All News

More News

Teen Who Urged Boyfriend to Commit Suicide Convicted of Manslaughter
19-Jun-2017

In July 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III attempted to take his own..

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Warrantless Cell Phone Location Search Violates Fourth Amendment
12-Jun-2017

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that cou..

Man Sentenced to 4 Years in Stabbing Death of Roommate
09-Jun-2017

A 72-year-old man is ordered to spend four years in prison after s..

Trial Delayed for Second Brother in Broken Arrow Quintuple Murder
29-May-2017

Shortly before midnight on July 22, 2015, police in Broken Arrow r..

Criminal Appeals Court Upholds Death Sentence for Triple-Murderer
26-May-2017

For the second time, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has af..

Poorly written bill leaves lawsuit loophole; Governor signs anyway
22-May-2017

When drafting legislation, it is imperative that language is clear..

Not Guilty Verdict in Tulsa Police Shooting; Officer's Job Status under Evaluation
19-May-2017

After nine hours of deliberation, a jury returned a verdict o..

Man Exonerated in Rape Case Awarded Compensation
15-May-2017

An Oklahoma man who was exonerated of rape after spending 13 years..

Trial Begins in Tulsa Police Shooting Case
08-May-2017

Jury selection begins today in the manslaughter case of Tulsa poli..

Oklahoma Death Penalty Remains on Hiatus
05-May-2017

It has been almost exactly three years since the botched execution..

×