If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Oklahoma, you might be feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the unknowns of the justice process. This step-by-step guide will provide an overview of the criminal proceedings in Oklahoma, from an arrest to sentencing. Although it covers a bit of information, having a criminal defense attorney who can guide you through each stage and protect your rights is important.
The Oklahoma Criminal Justice Process: An Overview
The Oklahoma criminal justice process is a system of legal proceedings designed to ensure the fair and just treatment of defendants. The process begins with the commission of a crime, which is then reported to the police. Law enforcement officials will investigate, and if they have probable cause to believe that a person has committed the crime, they will arrest the suspect.
A police report will be turned over to a prosecutor, who will determine whether sufficient evidence exists to charge the suspect with a crime. If there is enough, the suspect will be formally charged and scheduled to appear in court for a first appearance.
If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will be set for trial. At trial, the prosecutor will present the evidence against the defendant to a judge or jury. The defendant and their attorney can also submit arguments refuting the prosecutor’s claims. If the judge or jury finds the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they will be convicted and sentenced accordingly.
The Arrest and Booking
When the police have reason to believe that a crime has been committed, they will investigate.
The investigation may involve several tasks, including the following:
- Interviewing witnesses or victims,
- Looking for physical evidence, or
- Reviewing security footage.
If the police gather enough evidence to establish cause that a person has committed a crime, they will request a warrant from a judge or make a warrantless arrest.
Once an arrest is made, the accused will be read their Miranda rights and taken into custody.
A district court arraignment for a misdemeanor or felony is the first formal appearance of a defendant in court. At the hearing, the judge reads the charges against the defendant. They also inform the defendant of the potential penalties upon a conviction and advise them of their constitutional rights. Additionally, the judge may determine the conditions and amount of bail if they believe allowing pre-trial release will not endanger the alleged victim or members of the public.
The defendant may be asked to enter a plea during an arraignment for a misdemeanor offense. For felonies, a plea is not entered at the arraignment. The defendant is instead informed of their right to a probable cause hearing, where the prosecutor presents evidence to convince the judge that probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed and the defendant was the one who committed it.
Many criminal cases are resolved during pre-trial proceedings through negotiations between the prosecutor and defense attorney. In situations where a resolution cannot be made through a plea deal, the case is set for trial.
A trial can be long and complicated. The prosecutor presents evidence against the defendant in an attempt to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. At the same time, the defense makes counterarguments to highlight weaknesses in the prosecutor’s “proof.”
A judge or jury hears both sides and determines whether the defendant is guilty. If they are not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, the case is over, and the defendant is free to go. However, if they find the defendant guilty, the matter will move to sentencing.
The Sentencing Phase
A person may be sentenced when found guilty of a crime. The potential penalties may vary depending on the facts of the case. The most common punishment is incarceration, where the person is sent to jail or prison for a set period. Still, other penalties may also be imposed, such as fines, probation, community service, and sanctions the judge deems appropriate.
In most cases, the judge will have a wide range of discretion regarding sentencing. This means that they will consider relevant factors before making a decision. The prosecutor and defense attorney may also recommend what they believe is an appropriate sentence. Ultimately, it is up to the judge to decide the penalties.
Schedule a Consultation with an Attorney at Our Firm
The criminal justice process can be confusing, with various steps involved. Strategic decisions must be made at each stage to pursue a just outcome. An attorney can be instrumental in providing the guidance you need to navigate your case.To speak with a Norman, OK, lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Keith J. Nedwick, P.C. at (866) 590-8173 today.