Were you charged with a felony?


The Felony Process: A Guide Through the System Posted January 24, 2018

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Being charged with a felony criminal matter can be a scary and life changing event for the person charged as well as his/her family and loved ones.  The thought of prison time and becoming a convicted felon can be overwhelming.  As a criminal defense attorney who has handled hundreds of felony cases from theft crimes to major crimes like murder, rape and robbery; one of peoples biggest fears is the fear of the unknown.  Most people I have represented have never been through he system and have no idea what to expect once they are charged with a felony criminal offense.  The following is an outline of the criminal process for felony criminal matters in Tulsa county but most counties across Oklahoma work in similar fashion to Tulsa county.


What is a Felony?


A felony is defined as a  serious crime that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.  Examples of felonies are murder, rape robbery, burglary as well as many drug and property crimes.  Anytime that a person is charged with a felony criminal offense in Oklahoma they face the possibility of prison time if convicted of the crime.


Arrest or Warrant


A felony criminal charge always begins with an arrest.  A person is either arrested at the time of the incident or a warrant is issued after the fact if the suspect is not apprehended at the scene.  Either way the person suspected of the crime will be booked into Tulsa county jail and a bond will be set.  Bond is money that a person, or a bondsman, put up to secure the persons release pending the conclusion of the case.  Bond can be handled in one of two ways; 1) if the person has the means they can post a cash bond for the full amount and that money will be refunded at the conclusion of the case. 2) A person can retain a bondsman who will post the bond for them in return for 10% of the total bond, but the 10% that the person pays the bondsman will not be returned.  I know this can be confusing so lets break it down with an example.


If Joe gets arrested and his bond is set at $10,000, then Joe has two options for posting bond.  If Joe can afford it he can give the court $10,000 to hold until the conclusion of his case.  At the conclusion of his case the entire $10,000 will be refunded to Joe.  If Joe cannot afford to post the whole $10,000 then he can hire a bondsman who will charge him $1,000 (10% of $10,000) to post the $10,000 bond.  Joe will not be refunded the $1,000 he paid to the bondsman for posting his bond, this is how the bondsman earns a living.


Initial Appearance


After a person has been arrested for a felony charge a court date will be set.  This first court date is called an initial appearance.  An Initial Appearance is a simple court date where the court will inform the defendant of the charges against them and insure that that the defendant has a criminal defense attorney.  If the defendant has already retained a criminal defense attorney the court will set the next hearing date, the preliminary hearing.


Preliminary Hearing


Preliminary hearing is the first court appearance of consequence in a felony criminal matter.  A preliminary hearing, for lack of a better term, is a mini trial where the State must produce evidence that there is probable cause to believe a felony was committed and that the person charged was the one who committed the crime.  Probable cause simply means that there is some evidence that the person charged committed the felony that they are charged with.  This is an extremely low burden that is not hard for the State to overcome.  If the State presents enough evidence to meet the probable cause standard then the case will be “bound over” for district court arraignment. 


District Court Arraignment


District court arraignment is the first time that an individual will meet the judge that will preside over their criminal jury trial, if the case goes that far.  District court arraignment is the place in the felony process where the road splits.  It is at district court arraignment that an individual must decide whether they want to work out a plea bargain or whether they want to take their case to trial.  The vast majority of cases are worked out with plea agreements but every defendant has an absolute right to a jury trial.   


Plea Bargain


A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between the State (prosecutor) and the criminal defendant  where the defendant pleas guilty to a charge in return for some concession from the state, usually a lesser punishment than the defendant would face if they were convicted at jury trial.  The fact is over 90% of criminal cases are disposed of with a plea bargain, but if a person is innocent or a plea bargain cannot be reached then the case will be disposed of through jury trial.


Jury Trial


The Jury trial is the end of the road in the criminal felony process.  A felony jury trial can be broke down into six part: Voir Dire, Opening Statements, State’s Case in Chief, Defendant’s Case in Chief, Closing Arguments and the Verdict. For an in-depth look at a jury trial please see our article; Jury Trial:What to Expect


A felony criminal charge is a serious matter that can cost the accused everything if convicted, a defendant’s freedom, livelihood and possibly life is on the line when they face a felony criminal charge.  With so much at stake make sure to hire the best criminal defense attorneys around.  Call Stephen Lee and Mark Cagle, The Tulsa Criminal Attorneys, because when you're in a fight for your life you want the best.

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