Oklahoma Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences

Learn about felony sentencing, probation, parole, and expungement in Oklahoma.

By , Attorney

Like other states, Oklahoma distinguishes felonies from misdemeanors based on a crime's potential punishment. Misdemeanors can be penalized by up to a year in jail. Any crime that carries a possible penalty of more than one year and up to life in prison or the death penalty is a felony.

This article will discuss felony sentencing, probation, parole, and expungement options in Oklahoma.

Felony Penalties in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is one of a few states that doesn't classify felonies into different levels or classes (like Class A or Level 1). Rather, the law specifies penalties on a crime-by-crime basis. For example, the crime of arson specifies a penalty of up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Criminal statutes will generally specify a maximum and sometimes a minimum sentence. If a crime does not indicate a maximum sentence, the maximum defaults to life imprisonment.

Examples of Felony Penalties

Here are some examples of felony penalties outlined in Oklahoma's statutes:

  • First-degree murder may be punished by death or a life sentence.
  • Kidnapping carries a potential 20-year prison sentence.
  • Second-degree rape must be punished by at least one and up to 15 years in prison.
  • First-degree robbery carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison.
  • Assault and battery with a dangerous weapon carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence or a one-year jail sentence.
  • Possession of child pornography carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
  • Second-degree manslaughter carries a prison sentence of two to four years or a jail sentence of up to one year.
  • Third-degree burglary may be punished by up to five years in prison.
  • Domestic abuse by strangulation is punishable by a minimum of one and up to three years in prison.

Penalties for Repeat Felony Convictions

Repeat felony offenders face stiff sentencing enhancements under Oklahoma law. These enhancements increase the maximum sentence generally allowed for a specific offense (see above). The exact enhancement depends on the current offense (violent or nonviolent) and the number of prior felony convictions that fall within a 10-year lookback period. (The law looks back 10 years for prior felony sentences and only counts those felonies as priors.)

For instance, a repeat felony offender whose current offense is considered a "violent offense" (defined in law) faces:

  • if the offender has one prior felony, a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison, and
  • if the offender has two or more prior felonies, a minimum of 20 years and up to life in prison.

Separate enhancements apply for nonviolent felonies, sex offenses, theft- and fraud-related crimes, and drug crimes.

How Felony Sentencing Works in Oklahoma

Judges have several sentencing options at their disposal for felony convictions. The judge can impose any sentence up to the maximum allowed for that crime. For crimes with mandatory minimums, the judge must impose that minimum sentence (with a few exceptions).

Felony Sentencing Options

The judge will usually announce the sentence term (such as 10-years' incarceration) and either:

  • commit the defendant to confinement (send to prison), or
  • suspend the sentence with or without probation (for first- and second-time felony offenders only).

A judge can also impose fines, fees, restitution, community service, or other sanctions.

Suspended Sentence and Felony Probation

When suspending a sentence, the judge holds off on sending the defendant to prison and instead allows the defendant to serve their sentence in the community. A suspended sentence can also include probation supervision.

A defendant's sentence remains suspended only as long as the defendant complies with the conditions or probation terms. A violation means the judge can modify the terms or revoke the suspension and send the offender to prison.

Conditions of a suspended sentence can include paying fines, fees, and restitution, performing community service, serving a short jail sentence of up to six months, being subject to electronic monitoring, attending treatment, and submitting to drug and alcohol testing, among other conditions. Offenders on probation will be supervised as well for up to two years. The judge may allow those convicted of nonviolent felonies to serve their jail sentence on nights or weekends.

Deferred Prosecution and Sentencing Alternatives

Oklahoma statutes also authorize several alternatives to traditional sentencing for certain felony offenders (usually first-time or nonviolent offenders).

Deferred prosecution. Certain counties offer deferred prosecution programs that allow a first-time or nonviolent offender a chance to avoid court and a criminal conviction completely. The defendant must agree to the conditions of the program, which may include being supervised, paying fees and restitution, attending treatment or educational classes, or performing community service. The prosecutor (district attorney) will drop the charges if the defendant successfully completes the program.

Deferred sentencing. For first-time felony offenders (except those accused of sex offenses), the judge may hold off on entering the conviction and defer sentencing as long as the defendant abides by certain conditions (which can last up to seven years). If the defendant successfully completes all the conditions, the judge dismisses the case and expunges all related records.

Drug court or mental health court. A judge may consider placing felony defendants with no prior convictions for violent felonies in a treatment court. Drug courts and mental health courts aim to address offenders' underlying substance abuse or behavioral health issues that may have led to the criminal act. These treatment courts often involve frequent court appearances, intensive supervision, and required treatment plans. First-time offenders will have their charges dismissed upon successful completion of the program. Other offenders must agree to a disposition before entering the program.

How Parole Works in Oklahoma

For offenders who are sent to prison, the judge's sentence represents the longest amount of time they can spend in prison. But not all offenders will serve the entire sentence behind bars. Some may serve a portion of their sentence in the community on parole. Parole allows the early release of an inmate from prison conditioned on the parolee's compliance with their release plan and supervision terms (which follow them for the remainder of the sentence). Parole does not shorten a person's sentence, just the time spent serving that sentence behind bars in prison.

Parole Eligibility and the 85% Rule

To be considered for parole, an offender must serve a certain percentage of their sentence. For inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses, most become eligible after serving one-quarter or one-third of their sentence. Those convicted of violent crimes or sex crimes must typically serve 85% of their sentence. (More than 50 crimes are considered "violent crimes" and subject to what's known as the "85% rule.")

Parole Decisions

Parole decisions work differently for nonviolent offenders versus violent offenders who are subject to the 85% rule.

  • The parole board can grant parole only for nonviolent offenders. These decisions are made administratively or at a hearing.
  • For violent offenders, the parole board may recommend parole. This recommendation goes to the governor who then makes the final decision on parole.

If the parole board denies or doesn't recommend parole, the inmate must wait a year or more for parole reconsideration: The wait time is one year for nonviolent offenders and three to five years for violent offenders.

Parole Release

Parolees released to the community must abide by their release conditions (which are similar to probation conditions). If the parolee violates a condition, a revocation hearing will take place to decide whether to return the person to prison.

Expungement of Felonies in Oklahoma

Expungement options for felony convictions are limited to nonviolent felonies. To qualify, a person cannot have any pending criminal charges and must meet the following conditions:

  • A person can apply to expunge a single nonviolent felony conviction five years after finishing their sentence, as long as the person has no other felony convictions.
  • The waiting period goes up to 10 years if the person has two nonviolent felony convictions.

Find an Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a felony offense in Oklahoma is a very serious situation, as the state has some of the more stringent sentencing consequences in the country. Being able to protect your rights during the criminal justice process requires that you talk to a criminal defense lawyer who has experience representing clients in local courts. You should talk to a lawyer as soon as you suspect that you are being investigated for a crime, and immediately upon being approached by investigators.

(Okla. Stat. tit 21, §§ 51.1, 51.1a, 51.2; tit. 22, §§ 18, 305.2, 471, 472, 985.1, 991a-2, 991c, 3052; tit. 57 §§ 332.7, 332.8 (2021).)

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