Felony charges are very serious due to the consequences of a felony conviction. A person convicted of a felony loses certain civil rights, such as the right use, own or possess a firearm, the right sit on a jury and the right to vote. In addition a person convicted of felony will face fairly severe employment consequences. They will likely be prohibited from holding any position that involves the handling of money and will have difficulty getting licensed in any type of profession.
It goes without saying that the first strategy for defending a felony charge is to convincingly establish your innocence or at least cast doubt on the evidence presented by the prosecution. Remember, it is the prosecution’s job to try to convince the jury of your guilt beyond reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor fails to do this in the eyes of the judge or jury, you will most likely be found not guilty. If you cannot sufficiently establish your innocence or cast doubt on the state’s case against you, there are still a number of things that your defense attorney can do to help you with a felony charge.
Firstly and most importantly, your attorney may be able to intervene early with the district attorney’s office to reduce the charges against you. Just because a person has been arrested does not mean that the state has to proceed with that particular charge. If your attorney intervenes early with the prosecution, there may be a possibility — depending on the facts and circumstances of your case — that the felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor. There may even be a chance to convince the district attorney’s office not to proceed on any charges at all.
A Deferred or Suspended Sentence
There may be an opportunity to avoid a felony conviction if you are eligible for a deferred sentence where, given your limited criminal history, the prosecuting attorney agrees to dismiss the charges if you plead guilty and agree to attend certain programs or to complete certain tasks. This allows the judge to resolve the case and impose sanctions against you, but it also allows you to avoid becoming a convicted felon and incurring the consequences of a felony conviction.
If you do not qualify for a deferred sentence, you may still be eligible for a suspended sentence, where even though you have pleaded and been found guilty, the judge agrees to postpone your sentence pending your compliance with certain conditions. If you fully comply with the condition set forth by the judge, you will not have to serve time behind bars even though you have been convicted.
If all else fails, you may also be eligible for a “downward departure” where, based on certain legal principles or mitigating factors, your attorney convinces the judge to sentence you to a lower minimum sentence than that which is required by the law.
Finally, in situations where a good outcome has been achieved in a felony case to begin with, you may later able to seal or expunge your prior criminal history and get rid of any evidence of you having ever been charged with or convicted of a felony. This will allow you to further avoid the social stigma of having been charged with a felony and protect your future employment opportunities.
The most effective strategies for defending a felony in Oklahoma will consist of establishing your innocence and or working with the prosecutors to reach a plea agreement or to negotiate sentencing options that will allow for the best possible outcome for the case against you.
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