Most people are familiar with two of the sanctions that Oklahoma can impose upon an individual convicted of a crime: these are incarceration in a county jail or the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, and the imposition of fines. But some crimes are more serious than others; this is the distinction between misdemeanors (broadly defined as crimes for which less than one year of jail time may result) and felonies, which consist of crimes for which a sentence of in a state penitentiary (or the death penalty) can be imposed.
One important way that Oklahoma felonies differ from Oklahoma misdemeanors is that in addition to loss of freedom and the assessment of fines, felony convictions can also carry with them a third type of punishment — one that is less commonly known but which is still severe, and which can linger long after any prison term is completed and any fine is paid. This punishment consists of the denial of rights or privileges to convicted felons.
Some of the more noteworthy of these additional consequences include:
Loss of the right to possess firearms
Loss of voting rights (for the duration of incarceration)
Loss of driving privileges (for a duration of time comprising the revocation period)
Loss of ability to be employed by the state
Oklahoma statutes also preclude convicted felons from an extensive list of other activities, such as:
- Becoming a corporate director or bank officer
- Possessing a liquor license
- Becoming a pawnbroker
- Becoming a realtor or real estate appraiser, or surveyor
- Becoming a licensed professional in several disciplines
- Law (law enforcement, practice as an attorney)
- Other employment related to the legal system (shorthand reporter or bail bondsman, or polygraph examiner)
- Most any field of medicine (including nursing, dentistry, chiropractic medicine, osteopathy, pharmacology, psychology, physical or occupational therapy, cosmetology and even veterinary medicine)
- Security (in the security alarm or as a security guard)
- Marriage or domestic counseling
The examples above are not an exhaustive list of the ways in which your rights and privileges can be curtailed or even permanently revoked if you are convicted of a felony. Also, Oklahoma law is not the only legal system under which you can lose rights; violation of some federal laws can also result in the loss of rights or privileges.
If you have been accused of a felony offense, then to avoid these lasting consequences you have only a limited range of options: you may be able to enter into plea negotiations in the hope of reducing the charges to a misdemeanor offense in exchange for a guilty plea; you can successfully defend against a felony charge; or you can attempt to successfully appeal a felony conviction.
The choice of which strategy is best for you is as important as your choice legal representation; given the gravity of your situation when accused of a felony, not just any lawyer will do. With so much on the line — your liberty, your finances, and your rights to participate fully in society — you will need a law firm that is experienced with both state and federal criminal defense cases, including litigation practice.