2022 was a big year for Oklahoma criminal justice bills during the legislative session. Now that the regular session has adjourned, let’s take a look at three of the more notable bills introduced in February — and where they ended up.
Author: Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond
The background: Those with a criminal record can often encounter difficulty obtaining a job, housing, and education, directly leading to higher levels of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. Current Oklahoma law allows a person convicted of either a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor to seek and apply for an expungement five years after completing their sentence. While studies indicate that expungement significantly increases the likelihood of a person securing stable housing and employment, the expungement process can be complicated and often drags out for an extended period. Furthermore, less than 10 percent of those who are eligible for an expungement actually receive one.
What the bill proposed: HB3316 authorizes the state to automatically expunge certain criminal records via the Clean Slate system.
The system can identify cases eligible for expungement and notify the arresting agency, district attorney’s office, and other relevant parties. If any party does not dispute eligibility within 45 days, the Clean Slate system clears the record for expungement. Furthermore, the state could likely choose to use American Rescue Plan funds to pay for the necessary computer equipment, which is estimated to cost between $3 million and $5 million.
Bill status: Approved by Governor 05/02/2022, effective 11/01/2022. (Final version of the bill can be found here.)
Author: Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah
The background: The Oklahoma court system has long relied on court fees to fund its essential operations. Furthermore, six state agencies, including the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Administrative Office of the Courts, rely on these same court collections to fund their own operations. A Tulsa World analysis found that fines and fees accounted for roughly 66 to 90% of district court funding from 2007 to 2019. It also found that the burden to fund the court disproportionately falls on low-income individuals who often lack the means to pay and thus fall into a cycle of debt that can lead to additional warrants and further charges.
What the bill proposed: State funding of these agencies entirely through direct appropriations, while additionally prohibiting district attorneys from charging a $40 a month probation fee.
Bill status: Became law without Governor’s signature on 05/27/2022. (Final version of the bill can be read here.)
Author: Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa
The background: According to a 2020 analysis by FWD.us, Oklahoma prisoners serve 79% longer for drug offenses than the national average and nearly 70% longer for property crimes. Several efforts have been made to modernize and reclassify Oklahoma’s criminal code in recent years. The majority of surrounding states use what’s known as a crime classification system, which can make it easier for everyone from the public to law enforcement to better comprehend the criminal code and punishments associated with certain crimes. The removal of antiquated laws and modification of sentencing ranges can also be a part of the classification process.
What the bill proposed: The bill aims to modernize Oklahoma’s criminal code and allow courts to prioritize treatment over incarceration for certain offenders, which in turn would divert many from lengthy incarceration periods.
Specifically, Senate Bill 1646 reduces sentencing ranges for several crimes not subject to the current 85% statute. Some examples include:
- Larceny of an automobile, first offense: reduced from 3-10 years to 0-7 years
- Burglary, second offense: reduced from 2 years-life to 0-8 years.
- Second-degree robbery, second offense: reduced from 10 years-life to 1-10 years
Restitution payments would not be voided, and the bill would have no retroactive effects on those currently incarcerated.
Bill status: Second Reading referred to House Judiciary – Criminal on 03/30/2022, where it then stalled for the rest of session.
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