This section is tailored to felony criminal proceedings in Tulsa County although much of the information contained herein is also applicable to felony proceedings in other counties in Oklahoma.
OUTLINE OF FELONY PROCESS
After arrest, and charges are filed, the defendant will be given a date to appear in court. This initial court appearance is called the ARRAIGNMENT. The Arraignment is a very simple setting that I refer to as a “show up and say hi day”. The Arraignment is used by the court to inform the defendant of the crime that he/she has been charged with, and more importantly, to insure that the defendant is going appear. At arraignment the Judge will then enter a not guilty plea on the defendant’s behalf and set a new court date, which, in Tulsa County, is referred to as the Preliminary Hearing. The Preliminary Hearing setting will generally be within 14 days of the date of arraignment.
Most charges are resolved through plea bargains. A plea bargain is agreement between the prosecution and defense that provides a resolution of the case without the necessity of a trial. Plea bargains generally fall into one of four categories: 1) Straight Sentence 2) Split Sentence 3) Suspended Sentence 4) Deferred Sentence. (Please see SENTENCES for a description of the different type of sentences.) A plea bargain in a felony case can occur at any time after initial Arraignment. The case can plea out at the preliminary hearing, the day of trial or anywhere in between. There are some instances where a plea bargain is not an option and the case must proceed on.
The Preliminary Hearing is a mini trial where the state must prove that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and probable cause to believe that the person charged committed the crime. This is a very low standard for the prosecution to meet and many preliminary hearing result in the defendant being bound over for district court arraignment.
DISTRICT COURT ARRAIGNMENT
District Court Arraignment, or DCA, is the first time that a defendant will meet the Judge who will handle the case through trial in necessary. At DCA the Judge will, once again, inform the defendant, of the charges against them and set a date for an Allen Hearing.
An Allen Hearing is used by the court to insure that the defense has received all discoverable material concerning the case. The Defense has a right to obtain evidence that the State is going to use against them, including but not limited to police reports, search warrants, names of witnesses etc. At this time the defense can announce discovery complete, or if it is not the Judge will set a new allen hearing date and order the State to turn over discovery by that date.
Defense counsel may choose to file certain motions prior to the trial. If the defense files a motion prior to trial the Judge will set a hearing date at which time the court will rule on the issue. Motions may be filed for many reasons which are to numerous to mention.
The TRIAL! Trial is composed of Jury selection, Opening Statements, Presentation of Evidence, Jury Instructions, Closing Arguments and Deliberation.
Jury Selection: Choosing a jury from a panel of individuals summoned for Jury Duty. This is done through a question and answer process known as Voir Dire.
Opening Statements: Statements made to the jury by both the prosecution and the defense that will outline the case for the jury.
Presentation of Evidence: This is what people generally think of as the trial. This portion involves the calling of witness and questioning of those witnesses by both the prosecution and defense
Jury Instructions: At this point the Judge will instruct the jury on the law that is applicable to the case. See Jury Instructions for a list of jury instructions in Oklahoma.
Closing Arguments: The Prosecution and Defense are able to argue their interpretation of the evidence to the jury at this time.
Deliberation: The Jury attempts to make a decision in the case.