What to know if you are charged with domestic violence in Oklahoma

Domestic violence can be charged in a number of different ways in Oklahoma. Today we’ll talk about what you need to know if you or a loved one is charged with domestic violence, and the different reasons it might be filed in different ways.

You can listen to the original discussion on our podcast here.

What is domestic violence in Oklahoma?

One of the first, and most important, things to know is that domestic violence is different from simple assault and battery. The difference between these charges depends on who’s involved. There has to be some sort of relationship between the victim and the accused. You can’t have a domestic violence charge without the victim or the accused being one of the following: 

  • spouse
  • former spouse
  • boyfriend/girlfriend
  • parent
  • some sort of foster parent
  • child
  • some sort of blood relative
  • relative by marriage
  • parent of a mutual child, etc.

This even extends to someone who’s currently living in a house, even if there’s no familial relationship. So you could even see domestic violence in a roommate situation. Domestic abuse requires some sort of pre-existing relationship before the crime occurs – which makes it different from a simple assault and battery (which could be a bar fight, for example).

This is important because when you’re charged with domestic violence, the community and the legislature has decided that that act is much more offensive than the act of getting in a fight with a stranger in a street – that we somehow owe each other a greater duty because we have this familial or romantic relationship. It suggests that we should engage in behavior with even greater than the amount of respect guaranteed to strangers.

What does a domestic violence misdemeanor charge mean in Oklahoma?

As a general rule, the first-time offense of domestic violence will most likely be treated as a misdemeanor if there’s no great bodily injury, no strangulation, and no aggravating factors. 

A misdemeanor means that you’re looking at up to a year in the county jail. In Oklahoma, it also carries a $5,000 fine. Your first-time offense could be charged in a municipal court, like the City of Oklahoma City, or Mustang, or Yukon, or Piedmont. 

But you could be charged in state court. Oftentimes domestic violence cases do get transferred over to state court because they carry with them extra obligations, as opposed to a simple assault and battery.

Here, it’s important to talk about bonds. Let’s say there’s a fight or domestic dispute at the house, someone calls the police, the police come and take you to jail. You can almost guarantee that you’re going to be held in jail without bond. In other cases, like with a DUI or a simple possession of marijuana, you know your bond is going to be set at $1,000 or $2,000, so you can call a bondsman, post your bond, and get out of jail. 

But in a domestic violence case, the law permits the government to hold you for 72 hours. They call it ‘cooling-off period.’ They believe this time allows emotions to calm down, and whatever issues allowed the situation to get out of control will have an opportunity to subside. Some people also say it gives the victim an opportunity to pack their bags and get out. 

But either way, there’s a 72 hour hold.

Does that mean you’re stuck in jail for three days? No. 

It does mean you’re stuck in jail for three days if you don’t hire an experienced lawyer to defend you on these domestic violence cases. So how do we get that 72-hour hold lifted? Well, we go to the District Attorney, we come meet you, we find out the information about your case, and we go make an argument to the judge that this cooling-off period is not necessary. 

If you’ve been arrested, or your loved one has been arrested, and they’re being held with a 72-hour hold, contact us. We’ll get in there and see what we can do to get that bond lifted, so that we can get the accused person out and back to life as usual.

What about a second domestic violence charge? 

A second charge of domestic violence most likely gives rise to a felony charge in the state of Oklahoma. These felony charges can carry up to four years in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and, again, up to a $5,000 fine.

Each time we find ourselves charged with domestic violence, the possible range of punishment could be greater. But the facts really matter more than anything. 

Domestic violence carries a number of differently qualifying statutes.

  • What does it mean to have ‘great bodily injury?’ 

You may not have any prior domestic violence charges, but in this situation, the actions that gave rise caused an incredible injury to one of the parties. Maybe a nose or a finger got broken. We would call that great bodily injury. First-time offense carries up to 10 years in the State Department of Corrections. If you’re charged with or accused of committing domestic violence against a woman you knew to be pregnant (whether it’s your first-time offense, whether she suffers any injuries or not), the range of punishment is up to 10 years in the State Department of Corrections, as well as a $10,000 fine.

 

  • Sometimes we see people charged with domestic violence ‘by strangulation.’

 

Strangulation means that someone put their hands on, or around, your airways in an attempt to stop you from breathing naturally. The penalty is a minimum of one year, but it can carry up to three years and up to a $3,000 fine. 

These are pretty serious allegations. Each one of the enhancers does not require a misdemeanor to give it rise to be a felony.

Being found guilty

If, during any of these charges, you are found guilty, you’re required under Oklahoma statute to engage in a 52-week batterers’ intervention course. This includes being found guilty:

  • By a judge 
  • By a jury
  • In the course of a trial 
  • By plea
  • If you receive a deferred sentence (which is a special kind of probation that’s not a conviction, but allows the court to make a finding of guilt and put you on probation to meet your certain probationary needs at the end of that sentence the case is dismissed.) 

In any domestic violence situation where you’re charged and sentenced, you have to take part in this domestic violence course for an entire year. 

This is important because that is a stringent probationary requirement. There’s no other law in the state of Oklahoma that requires mandatory one-year’s worth of classes for any other action. The 52-weeks batterers’ intervention course is not an option. It is mandatory. And they’re not very tolerant of absences – they’re pretty serious about you starting it and completing it with the same groups of folks you started it with.

So it’s important to know if you’re going to enter a plea that you might want to start enrolling in those classes early. If you start engaging in those classes, you learn the skills and tools necessary to be able to better deal with better conflict within the home environment. And that helps your defense attorney assist you in negotiating a better deal on your behalf.

Is it considered a violent offense?

Well, by its very name it must be deemed violent because it’s violent – domestic violence. However, it’s not violent for the purposes of whether you’re considered a violent offender in the state of Oklahoma. 

To put it briefly, do you have to register as a violent offender on the Violent Offender Registry? No.

However, it is a violent offense for other reasons. For people who are looking at an application for you to rent from their rental property, domestic violence charges can, and oftentimes do, prohibit you from having access to that rental property. People will just say, “No. We’re not doing it.” 

If you are currently renting, and you are charged with domestic violence, and the police have been called out to your apartment complex because of a domestic violence issue, in many leases you will find a term that says they can terminate you, and everyone who’s in that house, if you return after a domestic violence case.

What are other consequences?

It’s important when you think about how to move forward, and where you’re going to position yourself on probation, because probation is very prohibitive in a number of different ways. 

Employers look at domestic violence with a special eye, oftentimes, too. And it’s very likely that you could risk being fired from your job based upon a plea or conviction for domestic violence.

The power of accusation and other information for the accuser

The federal government gives grant money to District Attorney’s offices especially to prosecute domestic violence cases. When the District Attorney’s office accepts this grant money, their hands are tied in how they can negotiate some of these cases. 

In the past, you could call the alleged victim in the case and say, “Do you really want to prosecute this matter?” And the accuser might say, you know, “No. We both had too much to drink that night. And it just got really frustrating. I wanted him to leave, and I didn’t know how to make him leave. So I called the police, and asked him to leave.”

(Note: we use ‘him’ here just as an example, because although there are many cases in which the woman is the alleged abuser, more often than not a man is the alleged abuser.) 

I hear it from clients and their alleged victims all the time. “I don’t want to press charges. Do I have to go to court?” The fact of the matter is, if law enforcement is involved it’s not up to you to make that decision anymore. The crime is not you against your spouse. The crime is the state of Oklahoma against the offender

The alleged victim has an incredible amount of power. To admit that you lied is an awful lot to ask for you to do. And even if you do that, you receive a lot of pressure from the District Attorney’s office because they have agreed not to dismiss these cases for failure to have a cooperative witness.

I hear every single day from alleged victims that the government is the one becoming the abusive, overpowering person in their life, and trying to force them to do something against their will. They threaten them with arrest. They threaten them with perjury charges, or making false police reports – even though this is against the law. 

If you are an alleged victim of domestic violence, and the government is doing this to you, either through the district attorney’s office, or through an arm of law enforcement – specifically police officers or district attorney’s investigators – I suggest you contact a domestic violence lawyer who can help advise you of your rights. There are protections specifically in the law for you to prevent them from doing this. 

I take these kinds of allegations against the government very seriously, and I would strongly encourage you to contact my office as soon as possible.

Getting a domestic violence case dismissed

It’s difficult to get a case like this dismissed. Oftentimes, you have to litigate it. If you’re charged with a misdemeanor, you have to set a date for trial, see if your accuser shows up, deal with the evidence as they have it, and ask a jury to see it your way.

If you’re charged with a felony, you have some more options. Certainly, it’s not a good thing to be charged with a felony, but at least in a felony you have a right to a preliminary hearing. That’s the first time that they’re going to call your accuser in and get their story on the record. Whatever they reported to law enforcement is not evidence. And that’s important to remember. It’s important for the person who notified law enforcement to remember that it’s not evidence, either. And you’re not stuck to the story that you told. Especially if that story isn’t truthful. You have a right, a duty, and an obligation to clear up the record. Not only for yourself, but also for the person who’s been accused.

What does this all mean?

Domestic violence claims come with really a dark cloud, and it can really be debilitating. 

Oftentimes, we see domestic violence claims accompanied with other cases. Let’s say you and your spouse are getting a divorce. It’s possible that lawyers – especially divorce lawyers who don’t practice in criminal court and don’t understand the grave consequences of making such false allegations – oftentimes encourage their clients to use the court system’s resources, whatever they might be, to best advantage them for a battle over silverware and custody of their children.

So, if you’re charged with a domestic violence case, and you’re also going through a divorce, talk to your divorce lawyer about their experience in this matter. Most divorce lawyers that I know should know that they don’t want to mess with domestic violence accusations. And they’ll send you to an experienced lawyer in Oklahoma City to represent you.

In sum, these are the most important things you need to know about domestic violence:

  • It could be a misdemeanor, or it could be a felony. 
  • It could be a year, or it could carry up to 10. 
  • Any finding of guilt, any conviction of any kind, is ultimately going to result in 52-weeks of batterers’ intervention courses, along with a slew and series of other probationary requirements. 

Contact Jacqui Ford Law today

In order to limit these consequences, limit your amount of time that you’re on probation, and limit the amount of hoops that you have to jump through, it’s important that you find someone experienced in defending domestic violence cases. We hope that you give us a shot. Contact Jacqui Ford Law today to see how we can help.

Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon in Oklahoma

Assault and battery are two distinct crimes.  Though assault is not exactly the same as battery, the two are commonly charged as a single crime of assault and battery.  An individual can be found guilty of assault and battery as a single crime when an assault ultimately leads to battery.

Defining Assault in Oklahoma

Assault is a threat or an attempt to induce physical harm on another individual.  The threat must include a physical action such as raising one’s fist toward a victim or charging in his or her direction.  

Defining Battery in Oklahoma

Battery is an individual’s intentional use of force against an individual who causes harm to another person.  As an example, spitting on someone, slapping or punching a person qualify as battery. This means following through on a threat by striking a person can result in a charge of assault and battery as a single crime.

Assault and Battery With a Dangerous Weapon

It is important to distinguish between regular assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.  Assault and battery with a dangerous weapon is committed when one acts with an intent to induce physical harm to another person, with a dangerous or sharp weapon or by shooting another person with a gun.  

In the state of Oklahoma, the intent to induce physical harm is one’s intent to induce harm to another individual regardless of its severity. An individual found guilty of aggravated assault and battery will have a serious felony on their record that dramatically reduces “life chances” across the years and decades to come.

Defining Deadly Weapons

Deadly or dangerous weapons are objects meant to inflict harsh bodily injury or a life threatening injury.  Such a weapon must be used in a way that could cause such an injury. Otherwise, the object in question will not qualify as a deadly or dangerous weapon.  Examples of deadly weapons include knives and firearms. However, even something like a baseball bat qualifies as a deadly weapon as it can be used in a manner that induces serious harm.  As long as the object can cause death, visible disfigurement, a broken bone or serious harm, it qualifies as a dangerous or deadly weapon. The use of such a weapon makes assault and battery that much more of a serious crime.

Assault and Battery Penalties

An individual who commits assault, battery or assault and battery with a dangerous weapon faces harsh penalties.  The worst possible penalty is upwards of a full decade in prison. The other end of the penalty spectrum is a year in jail.  If a medical provider is assaulted with a deadly weapon, the crime is punishable by upwards of a full year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.  A penalty of life in prison is possible for those who shoot a family member, date or an individual with whom one has a child as it qualifies as domestic abuse.

Restitution

An individual convicted of assault and battery or either of these offenses might be required to pay restitution.  Restitution payments are necessary to reimburse the victim for expenses related to the crime. As an example, restitution is paid to cover the cost of related medical treatment, replacing damaged or destroyed property and/or mental counseling necessary in the aftermath of the crime.

You Need Elite Legal Representation Following Your Assault and Battery Charge

Assault and battery charges have the potential to ruin your life.  Do not assume you will be found guilty following this unfortunate event.  Hire our legal team to fiercely advocate on your behalf and we will do everything in our power to prevent a guilty verdict.  Fail to hire a savvy attorney and you run the risk of an aggravated assault and battery felony conviction being added to your permanent criminal record.  If you are convicted of another crime later in life, the court will take the prior conviction into account and inflict an especially harsh sentence.

If you are convicted of a felony, you will forfeit your right to vote, carry a firearm, hold public office and obtain professional licenses.  Do not let this nightmare become your reality.

Contact our law office today to learn more about how we can combat your assault and battery charge and get your life back on track.

 

Haters Gonna Commit Crimes

Haters gonna commit crime

 

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

In layman’s terms, a hate crime is a traditional crime, like murder or assault, that the offender committed because they didn’t like something about the victim. It’s not illegal to think that another race, gender, etc is inferior or bad, it’s just illegal for those thoughts to lead to violent or negative actions.  

 

What’s the Point of Hate Crime Laws?

When a crime is considered a hate crime, the penalties are almost always more severe. Although some debate the validity of hate crime laws, the reason these laws exist is to deter more hate crimes from being committed and because if there is an extra level of malice involved.

 

When Did it Start?

In the US hate crime laws popped up right after the Civil War. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 outline several crimes that are now considered hate crimes. These laws mainly dealt with crimes committed against African-Americans.

Another major step for hate crimes came in the 1980s when legislation made it illegal to,”by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.”

 

Modern Hate Crime Laws

Today’s hate crime laws have become more broad. One of the biggest moves for hate crime laws was the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. This act expanded coverage to include sexual orientation, gender, disability and gender identity.

This act also expanded the laws in several other ways.

  • Removed the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity, like voting or going to school.
  • Provided $5 million per year in funding for fiscal years 2010 through 2012 to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.
  • Gave federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue.
  • Required the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes based on gender and gender identity.

Jacqui Defends Client Accused in Death of Wife

Crystal Ewertz was involved in an altercation with her wife in September 2015 that ultimately lead to the death of her wife, Sabrina Ewertz.

According to police reports, Sabrina was thrown from the hood of the car Crystal was driving. This all happened after the couple had an argument and Crystal decided it was in the best interest of her safety to leave.

In the process of driving away, Sabrina jumped on the hood of the car.

Earlier this week a probable cause hearing took place to see if the evidence warranted a trial. After hearing testimony from three witnesses the judge decided the case will move to trial on an alternative charge of either leaving the scene of an accident or first-degree manslaughter.

This is not surprising because the type of hearing that took place is not a trial with a jury. By no means is this a suggestion of guilt, it is simply an opportunity for justice to take place.

Accidents happen and good people get caught in the middle. That is why Jacqui is proud to represent Crystal and defend her innocence. We are confident that as we move forward the truth will be revealed and Crystal will be able to move on with her life.

Oklahoma’s Love Affair with the Death Penalty

The state of Oklahoma seems to be infatuated with the death penalty. We don’t have the most executions on record, but we’re close. Since 1976, our neighbors to the south have executed the most people, and Oklahoma has executed the second most. death-penalty

However, Oklahoma has more executions per capita than any other state in America. We also were the first state to officially adopt lethal injection as the preferred means of execution.

Taking a Breather

Furman v. Georgia was a Supreme Court case in 1972 that put the breaks on the death penalty. This temporary break came to an end in 1976 with Gregg v. Georgia. Prior to the Furman break, James French was put to death by the electric chair in 1966.

Back in the Saddle

Since Gregg v. Georgia, Oklahoma has executed 112 people. With all this experience you would think the state would be death penalty experts. However, in 2014 the state was forced to put a stop to all scheduled executions.

43 Minutes

On April 29, 2014, Clayton Lockett was put to death by lethal injection. His execution took a staggering 43 minutes because the doctor failed to properly inject the lethal IV almost 12 times.

Charles Warner was scheduled to be executed soon after Lockett, but his execution was delayed after Lockett’s disastrous execution. Warner was eventually executed on January 15, 2015. During his execution he cried out saying, “my body is on fire.” Since Warner and Lockett’s executions the state has launched numerous investigations and proposed several changes to the process.

No one has been executed since Warner, although one person got close. Richard Glossip was set to be the next executed person after Warner. Due to a Supreme Court battle over the lethal cocktail used for executions and questions about his innocence, Glossip has been granted three stay of executions. He now sits on death row, with no execution date set.

What is Self Defense in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma has some of the toughest drug laws in the country, but when it comes to self defense we actually have fairly lenient laws. While you can’t claim self defense anytime you get in a fight, but self defense is a completely valid and useful legal defense.self defense oklahoma

When Can You Use Self Defense?

The rule of thumb for self defense is, don’t throw the first punch. If you start the fight, you can’t claim self defense.

You’re allowed to use self defense when another party interferes with you or your property. The term “interferes” can sometimes cause debate in a trial, so before you claim self defense be sure the interference is blatant.

How Much is Too Much?

In most situations the level of force you use to defend yourself must be equal to the level of force the other party used against you. Example-

You get into an argument with the umpire at your son’s T-Ball game. It gets heated and he pushes you. Then you grab a T-Ball bat and hit him across the face.

This would most likely not be considered self defense.

You’re walking home one night and a mugger jumps out of a dark alley and puts you in Stone Cold Steve Austin’s signature move the “stone cold stunner.” You quickly recover and counter with a Chuck Norris style round house kick to the face.

This would most likely be considered self defense.

Stand Your Ground

Oklahoma laws support both stand your ground and castle doctrine. These laws allow you to stand your ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if you reasonably believe it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.

These laws are somewhat controversial, but it seems to be here to stay.

Self defense laws aren’t always straightforward, so if you’re planning on claiming self defense you need to get a lawyer on your side.

Oklahoma City Murder Defense Lawyer

 

Jacqui Ford, Jacquelyn Ford Law, P.C.: Welcome to Your Best Defense Podcast. My name is Jacqui Ford. And today we’re going to talk about defending murder charges. So, if you’re in Oklahoma City, or the Oklahoma state area, and you’ve been charged with murder you’ve big, big problems on your hands. Most likely, if you’re listening to this podcast you may have a friend or family member who’s been charged with some version of murder in the state of Oklahoma, and you need to know what their rights are and how we can move forward in defending them.

I’ve got good news. You’re listening to someone who happens to know a little bit about this. There are all kinds of different murders that we all think about – levels of murder. But, in Oklahoma, we really only have two: that’s murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree. There are lots of other homicide cases, and we’ll save those for another podcast, for another day. Read more

It Could Happen to You

It’s every lawyer’s worst nightmare that their client will be falsely convicted and serve time for a crime they didn’t commit. In a chilling new Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer follows a story of a Wisconsin man who was the victim of an over zealous criminal justice system.

Steven Avery was born and raised in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. He admittedly lived a far from perfect life and wasn’t exactly a model citizen. Avery was arrested several times in his youth for everything from animal cruelty to burglary.

In 1985, he was charged with the sexual assault of Penny Ann Beernsten. The prosecution acted swiftly and arrested Avery with little hesitation. After a hasty trial, Avery was convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence.

After serving 18 years in prison, DNA evidence proved that Avery was in fact innocent. Once he was released, Avery filed a $36 million lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin for false imprisonment.

A few years after being released Teresa Halbach came by Avey’s home to take pictures of Avery’s car for a magazine. Halbach disappeared that day and her body was found a few days later. Avery was the primary suspect in the case and was soon after arrested.

Avery adamantly claimed the evidence was planted by the police to prevent him from winning his pending civil case. Unfortunately for him, Avery’s words fell on deaf ears and he was convicted of murder and is now serving a life sentence in prison.

Making a Murderer sheds light on several glaring issues. The system can be broken. It’s heartbreakingly sad, terrifyingly scary, and incredibly more likely to happen to you or your loved one than you will ever know. If you have an interest in real lawyer shows and want a behind scenes look at being in a real trial watch Making a Murderer. If you’ve been falsely accused or convicted of a crime, your case isn’t hopeless. Criminal defense attorney Jacqui Ford stands ready to fight for your case no matter what the charges are.

Oklahoma Stay of Execution

Oklahoma Stay of Execution

In 1997 Richard Glossip was convicted of hiring Justin Sneed to kill his boss, Barry Van Treese. There was no physical evidence linking Glossip to the murder, but Sneed accepted a plea and testified against Glossip.

Waiting

Glossip was given the death penalty and has spent the past 17 years in prison waiting for his execution date. Glossip’s execution date was set for September 16th at 3 p.m. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

The last minute

The Oklahoma lawyers representing Glossip filed for a stay of execution with the Oklahoma Supreme Court in light of new evidence. The Court granted a two-week stay of execution three hours before he was set to be executed. The official statement reads:

“Due to Glossip’s last minute filing, and in order to for this Court to give fair consideration to the materials included with his subsequent application for post-conviction relief, we hereby grant an emergency stay of execution for two weeks.”

Midazolam

The controversy did not stop at the guilty verdict in this case. Not only is the conviction debated, the manner in which Glossip is set to be executed is also highly controversial. Glossip is set to be the first person in a year executed using the lethal drug Midazolam. This is the same drug that caused Clayton Lockett to writhe in pain for 43 minutes during his execution in Oklahoma.

What’s Next?

The two-week stay gives Glossip’s attorneys time to file more motions. The attorneys have already reached out to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin asking for a 60-day reprieve. Currently Glossip is set to be executed on September 30, 2015.

Attorney Jacquelyn Ford has been an outspoken supporter of Glossip’s case. She is ready to zealously defend anyone in need of criminal defense in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Accessory to Murder

On August 16, 2013, four men, who later claimed they were bored, were driving down a country road in Duncan, Oklahoma. As they were driving one of the passengers fatally shot a jogger with a .22-caliber handgun. The jogger was 22-year-old Australian Christopher Lane, who was attending college in Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship. Lane was visiting his girlfriend in Duncan.

The last of the four defendants to go to trial, James Edwards, plead guilty to being an accessory to murder on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. Edwards claimed he was unaware of the intent to kill when he was picked up and was rolling a joint in the front seat at the time of the shooting. He was originally charged with murder, but the charges have now been reduced to accessory to murder after prosecutors found he only had minor participation. The driver and shooter, Michael Jones and Chancey Luna, are both serving life sentences for 2nd and 1st degree murder respectively. The other passenger, Oddesse Barnes, is serving 12 years for accessory to murder.

Edwards, who was 15 at the time of the murder, was facing 20 years in prison with an additional 20 years of probation, but instead accepted a deal to attend a prison boot camp in Alva, Oklahoma. Upon completion of the camp program the Stephens County District Judge Ken Graham will decide how much additional time Edwards will serve in traditional prison.

If you are involved in a murder case it’s important to know all of your options. In this case, Edwards took advantage of an option that will potentially allow him to serve less time. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to present you with all the options available and can help you decide the best option for you. Jacqui Ford has the necessary experience to guide you through the cumbersome legal process and will fight for you no matter what your situation is.