Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. Our prisons and county jails are overflowing, and a significant percentage of the people who are incarcerated or in jail are there for simple possession. People are generally fed up with the system. They don’t like how people who are doing nothing more than using drugs are sometimes put in jail longer than people who harm others. The public is waking up. There is a lot of interest in criminal justice reform these days. I think people want to make sure that we are focusing our resources, both on the prosecution and incarceration side, on people who need to be removed from society.
Where Things Stand With The Changed Drug Laws As Of November 2016
A law that went into effect November 1, 2016 changed the sentencing range for simple possession of drugs. It eliminated the mandatory minimum time and reduced the maximum time for the first offense of simple drug possession. However, a ballot measure passed on November 8, 2016 changed that same law again. The change goes into effect on July 1, 2017. It makes simple possession of any drug a misdemeanor—no matter how many times somebody has been arrested for possession of drugs, what kind of drugs they were caught with, or where they were when they got caught with drugs.
Oklahoma went from one of the harshest states for drug possession to potentially the most lenient state for drug possession. To put this in perspective, the law that was superseded on November 1, 2016 had 899 words. The law in effect from November 1, 2016 to July 1, 2017 has 947 words. The law that goes into effect on July 1, 2017, has only 290 words. It’s clear that a lot was removed from the previous laws, most of which involved categorizing different punishments based on the schedules and how many times someone has been convicted of drug possession. The new law also takes out any reference to the possession of drugs in front of children or near schools. No matter where you possess drugs, what kinds of drugs, or how many times you get caught possessing drugs, starting July 1, 2017, it will be considered a misdemeanor.
Some people claim that changing simple possession from a felony to a misdemeanor will prevent people from entering drug court because a felony offense is required to enter drug court. However, 22 OS § 471.1 authorizes the establishment of a drug court for misdemeanor offenses.
For more information on Change In Oklahoma Drug Laws, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (405) 633-3420 today.
63 OS § 2-402 (Superseded 11/1/16)
63 OS § 2-402 (Superseded 7/1/2017)
63 OS § 2-402 (Effective 7/1/2017)