Oklahoma has become notorious for its severe penalties for drug offenses including possession, manufacturing, and distribution or trafficking of illegal drugs. Even a minor drug charge, such as a first offense possession of marijuana charge, carries the possibility of a year in jail if convicted. Fortunately, in many first offense drug convictions, a skilled Oklahoma drug crime lawyer can negotiate for a deferred sentence or suspended sentence which allows the defendant to avoid incarceration if he or she successfully complies with the terms of probation.
Still, Oklahoma drug laws offer a wide range of possible sentences depending on the circumstances of the drug offense. In fact, a second conviction of marijuana possession is a felony that carries a possible sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison. Oklahoma’s drug sentencing is among the harshest in the nation, with mandatory minimums and penalties that can include:
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines
- Life in prison without the possibility of parole
- In parole-eligible cases, a mandatory minimum of 50% of the sentence must be served before parole
- Years of probation and drug testing
- Loss of the right to possess a firearm
Oklahoma consistently makes headlines for harsh drug penalties that seem to far outweigh the severity of the crime. Some such stories include:
- Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow, 25 – fined $2,740 and serving 10 years in prison for a $31 drug sale to an undercover agent
- Darlene Burgess Lorenz, 49 at the time of her conviction – fined more than $120,000 and sentenced to two life terms plus 600 years for manufacturing methamphetamine and possessing firearms. Her sentence was commuted, and she was released after nine years and sentenced to 30 years of probation.
- Franklin Thompson, 25 at the time of his conviction – 60 years in prison for possession of 7 grams of crack cocaine, about $700 worth. Thompson will not be eligible for parole until he has served at least 30 years, half of his sentence. In most states, possession of that amount of crack carries only a five year sentence.
Thompson’s Oklahoma drug defense lawyer, when speaking about his client’s sentence and drug penalties in Oklahoma, stated, “It’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction. . . . The legislators all want to appear tough on crime. But they don’t think of all the ramifications.” With such wide-ranging possible consequences, there is often unjust disparity in drug sentencing.
Spottedcrow and Lorenz each turned down plea agreements which would have given them a shorter sentence. Spottedcrow turned down a deal that would have given her only 2 years in prison, rather than 10, understanding that most first offenders are given suspended sentences that allow them to avoid jail. Lorenz turned down a plea bargain that would have sentenced her to 15 years, feeling that the sentence was too harsh for the crime. Instead of 15 years, a jury sentenced her to 600 years plus two life terms.
Because of the severity of Oklahoma drug laws and their legal consequences, it is imperative that those charged with drug offenses seek immediate counsel from an experienced drug crime defense lawyer in Oklahoma. An attorney can help his or her clients by protecting their constitutional rights, defending them against drug charges, disputing evidence against them, helping them to understand the implications of accepting or refusing a plea deal, and negotiating sentencing options that minimize the impact of an Oklahoma drug conviction.