Oklahoma criminal offenses are divided into two categories: misdemeanor and felony. The state lists misdemeanors as those offenses which are punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail; felonies are those which are punishable by a year or more in the state penitentiary. Misdemeanors include crimes such as public indecency, petty theft, and most DUI offenses. Felonies, on the other hand, are typically more severe: robbery, sex crimes, high-dollar theft and white collar crimes, and more. In some cases, an offense may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on certain factors, including the egregiousness of the offense and whether the defendant is a repeat offender.
Although there is nothing minor about a misdemeanor criminal charge, conviction still carries lighter penalties than a felony conviction. Most people understand that both misdemeanor and felony conviction result in a damaging criminal record. Fewer people understand just how much more severely a felony conviction can restrict a person's civil liberties upon completion of a sentence. While a misdemeanor conviction can make it hard to find a job when it shows up on a background check, a felony conviction actually prohibits the convicted person from certain professions. An expungement can offer some relief to people convicted of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, but without a pardon from the governor, collateral restrictions of convicted felons remain.
What are these "collateral consequences" or civil disabilities convicted felons face?
If you are convicted of a felony in Oklahoma, whether the crime was violent or nonviolent, and whether or not the offense relates to any of the following items, you cannot:
- possess arms or ammunition, which effectively rules out hunting and self-defense of your home.
- vote during your sentence
- run for public office within 15 years of the completion of your sentence (and let's face it--how is that felony conviction going to help you win an election?)
- be a state employee
- work in certain professions or obtain professional licensures, including teaching, nursing, realty, and more (see a list of 31 prohibited professions and industries and the statutes which include them here)
In addition to Oklahoma mandated restrictions on people convicted of felonies, the federal government also places limitations on convicted felons. They lose eligibility for federally funded programs, including government assistance or welfare, government-subsidized housing, and student loans. They are prohibited from owning guns or ammunition. They may not serve on a jury, and if they are not citizens of the United States, they face deportation.
If you are convicted of a felony, you face legal repercussions long after your sentence is served. In most cases, these civil disabilities will remain with you for life. That is why it is so important to seek skillful defense representation at the outset. Do not wait to get the help you need. Call (405) 778-4800 for help, or click here to submit a confidential case review form.