Oklahoma has some of the harshest penalties for drug crimes, including drug possession, in the United States. Despite these tough drug laws, the state ranks high in drug abuse and addiction. The state has not only one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, but also a disproportionately higher number of inmates incarcerated for drug crimes compared to other states.
According to The Sentencing Project, Oklahoma bears some of the following dubious distinctions:
- Oklahoma has the third highest incarceration rate in the nation.
- The state’s prison population doubled in the 20 years between 1989 and 2009.
- At least half of those incarcerated in Oklahoma prisons are there because of nonviolent property crimes and drug crimes.
- In Oklahoma, 27 percent of the prison population is sentenced for drug crimes; nationally, the average is 20 percent.
The majority of these drug offenders are in prison not for trafficking, manufacture, or distribution, but for drug possession crimes. In Oklahoma, simple possession of a Schedule I or II drug is a felony, even on the first offense. An exception is marijuana possession. Although marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, its possession is treated as a lesser offense. A first offense of marijuana possession is a misdemeanor; however, subsequent offenses are felonies.
Because possession of a Schedule I or II CDS is a felony, the prison sentences associated with conviction are lengthy, even for a first offense. The Sentencing Project reports that the average sentence for a first offense of possession of crack cocaine in Oklahoma is 3.3 years. For a first offense of possession of powdered cocaine, the average sentence is 3.71 years. Remember, that is an average of approximately 3.5 years for possession alone–as a first offense. Distribution of crack cocaine or powdered cocaine as a first offense brings an average of 5.2 or 6.6 years, respectively. A second offense of marijuana possession elevates it from a misdemeanor to a felony. Another factor that enhances penalties for drug possession is possession within 1,000 feet of a school, child care facility park, recreational center, public housing, or in the presence of a child. In any of those cases, the potential sentence is doubled on the first offense and tripled on the second offense.
Take a look at some of the statutory penalties for drug possession in Oklahoma:
- Possession of marijuana or Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance (first offense) – misdemeanor; up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000
- Possession of marijuana or Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance (subsequent offense) – felony; 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000
- Possession of a Schedule I or II narcotic – felony; 4 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
Drug possession charges should not be taken lightly. Oklahoma is notorious for handing out long sentences for non-violent drug crimes. If you are arrested for drug possession, it is imperative that you contact an attorney at once. There are a number of viable defense options available in drug crime cases. Contact a drug defense lawyer for a free evaluation of your case to determine which strategies may work for you
Federal Tax Crimes: What You Need to Know
Next month is the filing deadline for 2015 income tax returns, and many individuals are scrambling to find the best tax breaks to reduce the amount they owe or to increase the amount of refund due to them. Understanding the tax code is difficult, which is why an estimated 17 percent of tax returns have errors. The difference in unintentional negligence and willful attempt to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), however, can mean criminal charges for anyone suspected of tax evasion or tax fraud.
Despite the fact that more than 15 percent of taxpayers make mistakes on their income tax returns, only approximately 0.0022 percent of United States taxpayers are convicted of tax crimes annually. While millionaire celebrities–Martha Stewart, Willie Nelson, Nicholas Cage, and Wesley Snipes, for example–make headlines for tax evasion, the IRS reports that approximately 75 percent of tax fraud is committed by individuals, primarily middle-income earners who under-report their wages or claim deductions to which they are not entitled. Most tax evasion takes the form of under-reported income, but approximately 7 percent occurs through overstated or false deductions.
A careless or negligent mistake on one’s income tax return is subject to a 20 percent penalty. For middle-earners trying to keep finances in check, a 20 percent penalty can be significant; however, it is a pittance compared to the 75 percent civil penalty levied for tax fraud. Furthermore, tax fraud is a federal offense, and although only a small percentage of taxpayers are prosecuted and convicted, this translates to more than 2,000 individuals each year who are earn a criminal record for a federal conviction.
How do auditors find fraud? The IRS looks for specific indicators of fraud, and while they may give a taxpayer the benefit of the doubt on small, careless errors, these egregious signs of fraud (two sets of financial books, for example, or claiming non-existent dependents), will likely result in a taxpayer being referred to the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. In some cases, the auditor will assess a civil penalty without reporting the fraud to the CID, but he or she will not tell you whether or not you have been reported for criminal investigation. In fact, because workloads of auditors and investigators are so great, it may be months or more before you are made aware that you are under investigation.
Most fraud attempts are not as blatant as claiming a non-existent dependent, and IRS auditors and CID investigators often look for indirect indicators of fraud, including bank deposits or expenditures that exceed one’s claimed income. There may be legitimate explanations for indirect indicators of fraud, and a skillful federal white collar crimes lawyer can demonstrate these explanations in your defense. If you are investigated for tax evasion, tax fraud, or other federal crime, submit the online case review form for a confidential consultation with a federal criminal defense lawyer in Oklahoma.