On the same day a new US President was elected, the voters of Oklahoma passed important criminal justice reforms which will reduce a number of crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and divert funds saved from not imprisoning felons to providing community rehabilitation services. State Questions 780 and 781 both won a majority of votes within the state and will become law as of July 1, 2017.
How State Question 780 Reduces Penalties
With the passage of State Question 780, Oklahoma will now treat a host of drug and property-related crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies, with the result that the maximum consequences for a guilty verdict or plea will be a fine of $1,000 and up to one year in prison. The state crimes that will be affected include:
- Possession of a dangerous substance
- Larceny (taking of property less than $1,000)
- Taking of domesticated fish or game (when worth less than $1,000)
- Taking of oil or gas (when worth less than $1,000)
- Embezzlement (when amounts embezzled worth less than $1,000)
- Fraud involving taking of housing or food (when value less than $1,000)
- Forgery, counterfeiting, or issuing bogus checks (involving less than $1,000)
By incarcerating less individuals on lower-level property and drug crimes, the state will conceivably save money, and State Question 781 provides a framework to distribute the saved money to counties for the purpose of supporting mental health and substance abuse services.
The Purpose of the New Measures
In the ballot initiative filed with the state, the supporters of 780 pointed out that Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration rate in the country and the highest incarceration rate for women. The stated purpose of the new law was to: “1) stop wasting taxpayer money keeping people who commit low-level crimes behind bars for years; and 2) saddle fewer people who commit low-level offenses with felony convictions that will follow them through life and prevent them from getting an education or a job.”
Your Oklahoma Criminal Defense Team
At the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, in Oklahoma City, we applaud the criminal justice reform efforts embodied in the new laws while also recognizing that even a misdemeanor on your record can lead to jail time, fines, and challenges for your career and reputation in the future. Former Oklahoma District Attorney Patrick Quillian has the knowledge, experience, and tenacity to fight your criminal charges and work towards a closed investigation, dismissal of charges, not guilty verdict, or other favorable outcome. Contact his office today at 405.294.4448 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do for you.