Beginning of the Process
The formal misdemeanor process typically begins with the filing of the Information or an arrest. The information is a written allegation filed by the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office. (The process can also begin with an Indictment from a grand jury but this is very unusual for individuals charged with State misdemeanors.)
If the defendant has not been previously arrested an arrest warrant will be issued for the defendant and a bond will be set. No notice will be given to a defendant that a warrant has been issued for their arrest. Often the first notice that a defendant receives that a warrant has been issued for his or her arrest is when law enforcement officials arrest them. (To find out if someone is in David L. Moss, the Tulsa County Jail, go to TulsaCounty.org and click on the "Jail Info" link. Or call 918-596-8900)
Frequently individuals will know that they are being investigated for a crime and that criminal charges are a possibility. To check charges have been filed against an individual you can search on the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network (OSCN). Search the "Court Dockets" screen for the county that you believe charges have been filed in by entering the first and last name of the individual you are checking to see if charges have been filed on behalf of.
If an individual has been arrested without the issuance of a warrant than that individual will be given a court date to appear in court. If charges are not filed by the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office than that individual will be released from jail or if they have bonded out of jail their bond will be exonerated. (This usually does not occur on the defendant's first appearance in court.)
Once the District Attorney's office files an information the defendant's case will be given a misdemeanor case number. An example of a felony case number is CM-2003-1284. All felony case numbers began with “CM”. The next part of the case number is the year that the Felony was filed in, “2003”. The last part of the number “1284” means that this is the 1284th misdemeanor case filed in 2003.
Sometimes you may hear someone refer to a “No File” number. Every time someone is arrested for a felony that charge or case is given a “no file” number. The number will look very similar to a normal felony number. For example a typical number may be NF-2003-1456. The “No File” number is used to track a case prior to the District Attorney’s office filing formal charges. No File or NF numbers are not available on OSCN but the Court Clerks are able to access those numbers.
If an individual is arrested without the issuance of an arrest warrant, a probable cause arrest, their first appearance in court will be to set a bond, if a bond has not already been set. If that person is still in jail, David L. Moss, they will appear in court via a video conference and will not actually be physically present in the courtroom. If that person has bonded out of jail they will be given a court date and they will need to appear in Room 173 of the Tulsa County Courthouse at 9:30 am on the date of their court appearance. For individuals arrested on probable they are typically required to return to court on a latter date in order to give the district attorney’s office an opportunity to decide whether formal charges will be filed.
If an individual is arrested after the issuance of arrest warrant or they are arrested on probable cause and the District Attorney’s Office has filed formal charges against that person, than they will be expected to have an attorney when they appear in Court. At arraignment the defendant will be given a copy of the charges filed against them, the Information, a plea of not guilty will be entered at that time and a date for the Jury Trial Sounding Docket will be set.
If that individual needs some time to hire an attorney they can ask to have their arraignment passed to give them time to hire an attorney. If an individual is without the ability to hire an attorney than they can request a pauper's affidavit and request that the court appoint an attorney to represent them. If a defendant has bonded out of jail there is a presumption that defendant has the resources to hire an attorney to represent them, as a result it may be difficult to get the judge to appoint an attorney for them. However, a defendant is not required to chose between his or her constitutional right to reasonable bail and their right to be represented by counsel if indigent.
Jury Trial Sounding Docket/Conference Date
Jury Trial Sounding Dockets/Conferences are held in room 124 of the Tulsa County Courthouse. There are approximately 60 misdemeanor cases per day handled in room 124. As a result the assistant district attorneys handling the misdemeanor cases are very busy and will not review the cases until two to three days prior to the Jury Trial Sounding Docket/Conference Date.
Most misdemeanor cases are resolved without a jury trial. The majority of cases are resolved with plea agreements. When a defendant enters a plea there are different types of agreements that can be entered into with the state. Listed below are the types of agreements that can be entered into and what they mean.
Deferred Sentence—When a defendant receives a deferred sentence it means that the defendant enters a plea, the judge excepts the plea but does not find the defendant guilty. Instead the judge defers the sentencing for a period of time upon certain conditions that the defendant must satisfy. If the defendant complies with the terms of deferment on the review date the defendant will be allowed to withdraw his or her plea and any record of a plea will be expunged. A defendant who successfully completes a deferred sentence has not been convicted of the offense that they entered a plea of guilty or no contest to.
Suspended Sentence—A defendant who receives a suspended sentence is a convicted felon. They are sentenced to a period of time in the Department of Corrections and that sentence is suspended upon their continued good behavior. If the defendant complies with the conditions of probation they will not be incarcerated in the department of corrections.
In Time—Sometimes the State and the Defense agree to a plea bargain that involves the defendant being sentenced to the Tulsa County Jail for a period of time. This is commonly referred to as “In Time”.
One of the major considerations that needs to be considered when entering a plea to a misdemeanor offense is whether or not the conviction of that offense is a prerequisite to a felony. Some crimes such as DUI and Domestic violence are misdemeanors the first time someone is convicted of them and a felony the second time they are convicted.
If an agreement cannot be reached at the conference date than a Jury Trial will likely be set. Once a Jury Trial Date is set than a "Allen Hearing/Discovery Hearing" will also be set.
Many people are surprised to learn that discovery in a criminal case is more restrictive than discovery in a civil case. Discovery in criminal cases is governed by statute, Title 22 O.S. Section 2002, and case law. Most District Judges will set an "Allen Hearing" or "Discovery Hearing" to make sure that both parties have exchanged discovery. This hearing is set at least 10 days prior to the trial. The name "Allen Hearing" comes from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Allen v. State, 1997 OK CR 44.
Every defendant charged with a felony has an Oklahoma and United States Constitutional Right to a Jury Trial. Misdemeanor Juries consist of six (6) jurors. The jury decides questions of fact and the judge decides questions of law. There are numerous rights associated with a juror trial including the right not to testify, the right to confront the witnesses, the right to be represented by counsel, and the right to use the court’s process to compel the production of favorable evidence.
Every Jury trials begin with jury selection. Jurors are called to the courtroom and the judge’s clerk randomly selects the potential jurors for the case by drawing their names out of a box. The judge will then question the potential jurors to ensure that each juror meets the appropriate qualifications. Jurors must live in Tulsa County and they cannot be convicted felons. The judge asks questions to determine if there is any reason that a juror cannot be fair.
Once the judge is finished with the initial questioning the district attorney handling the case questions the potential jurors. After the district attorney is finished questioning the jurors the defense will be allowed to question the jurors. If during the questioning either the attorney for the state or the defense uncovers a reason that they believe an individual juror cannot be fair that side can ask the court to excuse that juror for cause. If the judge excuses that juror another juror will be called to replace that juror.
After each side has passed the jury for cause each side begins exercising their preemptory challenges. In misdemeanor cases each side is allowed three (3) preemptory challenges. Each side can exercise its preemptory challenges for any reason that it desires but it cannot exercise them for the wrong reason, potential jurors cannot be excused on the basis of their race, religion or sex. After each side has exercised their preemptory challenges the remaining jurors are the jury that will hear the case.
After the jury is selected the next step in the trial process is the opening statement. Since the state has the burden of proof, the attorney for the state will give the opening statement first. The opening statement is the time for each side to explain to the jury what they anticipate that the evidence will be; a sort of road map to the expected evidence. Parties are not allowed to argue the evidence in the opening statement. The defense can either give their opening statement at the beginning of the trial or reserve their opening statement until the beginning of the defense case.
Presentation of Evidence
After the opening statements have concluded the state begins presenting their case. The state will call witnesses to the stand and ask those witnesses questions designed to elicit the relevant testimony. During the witnesses testimony both sides have the opportunity to introduce exhibits such as physical evidence, written statements, video statements, photographs and videos.
After the state conducts its direct examination the defense is allowed to cross-examine the witness in order to elicit favorable information not brought out in the direct examination or to discredit the credibility or testimony of the witness. After the state has finished presenting its evidence the state will rest and the defense will be allowed to present its evidence if it chooses to do so. The defendant has a constitutional right to testify if he or she desire and if the defendant chooses not to testify than no mention of the defendant’s choice can be made by the prosecution.
The above described process will be repeated until both sides have introduced all of the admissible evidence that they desire to introduce. If during the course of the trial there is a dispute concerning the admissibility of evidence that dispute will be resolved be the judge after hearing arguments of both parties and reviewing the applicable law.
Instructing the Jury
After the close of all the evidence the Judge will instruct the jury on the applicable law. Jury instructions are concise statements of the law designed to give the jury the law that they need in order to decide the case. The judge decides the applicable law but the jury applies the law to the evidence to determine the facts of the case. Most of the instructions are selected from the Oklahoma Uniform Jury Instructions known as OUJIs. OUJIs can be found on the internet on the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network.
Since the state has the burden the state will give the first closing argument and the final closing argument. During the closing argument the state will review the evidence and argue reasonable inferences from that evidence. After the conclusion of the state’s first closing argument the defense will be allowed to give its closing argument. Then state will conclude with its final closing argument.
After hearing the evidence in the trial, listening to the jury instructions and the arguments of counsel the jurors retire to deliberate their verdict. The verdict of the jury must be unanimous whether for guilt or innocence. If the jury is unable to decide the case a mistrial will be declared and the state has the option of retrying the defendant for the charges. If a jury reaches the verdict the jury will announce its verdict in open court.
Tulsa Criminal Defense Lawyer: Kevin D. Adams
Disclaimer: Kevin D. Adams only provides legal advice after having entered into an attorney client relationship, which this website specifically does not create. Only after having entered into a representation agreement with Kevin D. Adams will an attorney-client relationship have been created. It is imperative that any action taken by you should be done on advice of legal counsel.* Because every case is different, the descriptions of outcomes and cases previously handled are not meant to be a guarantee of success.
Copyright ©2003 Kevin D. Adams
State Misdemeanor Process brought to you by Tulsa Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyer Kevin Adams