New Oklahoma Laws Ease Mandatory Sentences for Drug Crimes
A slew of new Oklahoma laws ease sentences and imprisonment for drug crimes and crimes often charged alongside drug crimes. These laws, all signed by the governor on April 26, 2018, go into effect in late 2018.
First, the law known as SB 649 will reduce sentences for repeat drug offenders convicted of possession. Currently, repeat offenders receive harsher sentences because of their previous drug possession offenses. The new law eliminates those sentencing enhancements. Courts now cannot impose longer sentences on defendants because of their previous convictions for possession of controlled dangerous substances. However, people convicted of other drug crimes may still receive extra prison time for being repeat offenders.
Second, SB 689 allows the court to modify sentence lengths for non-violent offenders. If a defendant was sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent crime and has served more than 10 years of his or her sentence, the judge can reduce the sentence in his or her discretion. This law will affect defendants charged with drug trafficking, which can carry a life in prison sentence and is considered a non-violent crime.
Third, the law known as SB 650 will reduce the waiting time to apply for expungement of criminal records. Expungement means that the criminal record is “wiped clean” for background check purposes. The law changes the waiting period for nonviolent offenders to apply for record expungement from 15 to 7 years. It changes the waiting period for violent offenders from 20 to 10 years. This law will be very helpful for criminal defendants seeking to start fresh and who qualify for expungements.
Fourth, the law known as HB 2286 will allow nonviolent offenders to reduce their jail or prison time. Prisoners can earn credits by taking a series of classes offered by correctional facilities. These credits can be applied to prisoners’ sentences, helping them get released earlier. For defendants convicted of longer sentences due to mandatory minimums or enhancements, these credits could prove very helpful in negating the effect of the longer sentences.
Two other laws change sentencing for crimes often charged along with drug-related crimes, such as burglary, larceny, and writing false checks. One law, known as SB 786, will reduce the mandatory minimum sentence for first-degree burglary. It also will eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for second- and third-degree burglary offenses. Finally, it will change vehicle burglary from a second-degree offense to a third-degree offense. The law known as HB 2281 reduces mandatory minimum sentencing procedures in property or drug possession related convictions, changing and reducing both mandatory minimum and maximum sentences for property-based crimes.
For drug crime offenders, these laws could reduce their sentences dramatically. For the state of Oklahoma, the laws could reduce prison overcrowding and may signal a general trend of lighter penalties for nonviolent offenses.
The governor also signed several other bills in late April and early May 2018 that do not directly affect drug crime sentencing but are notable because they reduce sentences or lower requirements.
The next blog will discuss several new laws that may reduce defense costs for people charged with crimes.
To learn more about mandatory sentences in drug cases, seek out the criminal defense attorney who follows key changes in Oklahoma law to find the best defenses for his clients. Clint Patterson, Esq., of Patterson Law Firm, a former Tulsa prosecutor now using his trial experience and knowledge of criminal law to defend Oklahomans, has the experience and the insight to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Patterson Law Firm online or call Clint’s office at (918) 550-9175.