As states across the country soften their approach to drugs with regard to drug possession laws and resources spent on enforcing existing drug possession and trafficking laws, Oklahoma has remained one of the strictest states in the country when it comes to putting people in prison for drug possession and trafficking. But last year, the Oklahoma legislature did take a step towards reducing the harshness of drug trafficking sentences by abolishing the minimum life sentence for a drug trafficking that had been previously applied to many defendants with a criminal record.
How the New Law Will Affect Drug Trafficking Sentences
Prior to last year, a defendant who was charged with an Oklahoma drug trafficking crime who already had two felony drug convictions faced a minimum sentence of life in prison for a third conviction. This mandatory life sentence for conviction clearly gave law enforcement and prosecutors an enormous amount of leverage in criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Under the revision to the law passed into law by Governor Mary Fallin last year, defendants on trial for felony drug trafficking charges who have two previous felony drug convictions will instead face a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, so long as the prior two convictions were not for drug trafficking. Although 20 years in prison is the minimum sentence, judges still have the option of sentencing defendants to up to life in prison. The change in law also does not apply where the defendant's previous two felony convictions were both for drug trafficking, and, in that case, defendants will still face a mandatory life sentence for a third conviction.
Fighting Drug Trafficking Charges in Oklahoma
According to The Oklahoman, there are currently 55 prisoners in Oklahoma serving life sentences for drug trafficking charges. Although the new law does provide some positive news for previously convicted defendants facing drug trafficking charges, even 20 years in prison remains an extremely long sentence and gives prosecutors significant leverage over defendants in bringing cases. Furthermore, drug trafficking charges can be brought when police find as little as 20 grams of methamphetamine, 28 grams of cocaine, or 5 grams of crack cocaine in a defendant's possession.
If you believe you are the target of a drug trafficking investigation, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, and avoid talking to any type of law enforcement without an attorney present who represents your interest, even if law enforcement suggests that they are merely looking at you as a witness and not a target.
Work With a Former Prosecutor to Defend Your Freedom
Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian is a former Oklahoma prosecutor and has the skills and experience to work towards a dropped investigation, dismissal of charges, not guilty verdict, or favorable agreement with reduction of penalties and charges. Contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405-896-9768 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do to help defend your freedom.