Did you recently get a ticket for possession of marijuana? You are probably trying to figure out
- How much is this going to cost me?
- Do I need a lawyer? How much will that cost?
- What will happen with my job or future job?
- Will this stay on my record?
This blog series is meant to walk you through the steps of dealing with misdemeanor charges for possession of marijuana in Oklahoma. In our last post, we covered the criminal penalties for marijuana possession charges in Oklahoma. In that article, we explained that individuals typically get either a fine only, or a deferred sentence, which means they are put on probation and the case is dismissed after the probation is complete. Jail time is not common, but can happen depending on the defendant’s criminal record and whether there were other crimes involved, as well.
So you’re now caught up on that information, and you are comfortable with the possible outcomes. What do you do now? Hire a lawyer? Or is it possible to represent yourself in a petty marijuana possession case?
You can represent yourself in District Court or Municipal Court, but you should rehearse the procedure first.
It is entirely possible that you represent yourself in a misdemeanor marijuana possession case in Oklahoma Courts. You just need to know what to expect. Once you understand the procedure, than you will not feel so anxious and second guess your decisions. The following is an overview of the criminal process.
An officer witnesses or otherwise has credible information that you committed a crime. He can either arrest you or write you a ticket. If you are arrested, you will be taken to a jail, finger printed and booked, and held until bond is posted. For misdemeanor charges these days, you could are released on your “own recognizance,” meaning you are released without having posted bail and they just expect you will show up to court.
This is the very first court hearing and you will be asked how you plead. This stage may vary from courthouse to courthouse. In Oklahoma County District Court, there is a formal arraignment, but you simply appear, and the judge will usually assume you are pleading not guilty and just give you another court date. Even if you wanted to plea guilty, this hearing is usually not the time or place to do it because the judge and staff will be busy arraigning all the other defendants. Get your next court date and go from there.
In Oklahoma City Municipal Court, as well as Okla. County District Court, misdemeanor cases are set for disposition dockets where the attorney’s show up and announce to the court whether the case has been settled (a plea agreement reached); or whether the parties need more time to continue negotiating. The attorney will then ask for a new date. The attorney may ask for another disposition/conference date, or may ask for a pretrial conference if the case is to be contested and litigated.
Since you are representing yourself, you will not have the luxury of being able to negotiate with the prosecutor outside of court, and then coming in to court with a deal already made and just signing off; you will have to wait through the docket for the judge to call your name and announce your intentions then. Expect judges to have little patience for unrepresented parties (it makes their job harder).
This is where the type of forum can differ. If it is a small municipal court, you may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor that day; or you may be able to call and ask his recommendation for sentencing in exchange for your plea.
If it is in Oklahoma County, you will ultimately be able to negotiate after things have slowed and the lawyers have cleared out.
Negotiating your plea bargain for marijuana possession in Oklahoma Courts
Here is the deal. If you want to expunge yoru case, you need to get either a deferred sentence, or a conviction under $501. Both will allow you to expunge the case, but with different time periods. If you receive a deferred sentence, you can expunge your case ONE YEAR after the probation ends.
If you pay a fine of $500 or less (not including court costs), you can expunge your case the next day.
How to approach the court with a plea
Once you have worked out your deal with the prosecutor, you can plea in open court. Make sure you have the proper court date for this.
Once it is your turn, approach the bench, and announce that you are ready to change your plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” and that you have reached an agreement with the prosecutor as to the penalty.
The judge will swear you in, take your plea, and then ask the prosecutor to confirm the agreement. The judge will then order your punishment, you will sign off, and you are done.
If you negotiated a deal for a fine under $501, then you will go pay the fine at the court clerk counter. Once paid, you can get started immediately on your expungement.
If you negotiated a deferred sentence, then you will get a contact number for who to report to (and where to make your probation payments) and get started on any other requirements (like community service).
After the case is finished, is there a record? What happens to the court files, arrest record, fingerprints, mugshot, etc.?
Your arrest record with OSBI will reflect the sentence that was entered by the court that day. But that information can be expunged. So can the court records, the police reports, and jail booking. All of it can be sealed from public access.
To learn more about expungements, complete this form or call 405-701-6016.