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The Oklahoma State Criminal Process

Many people mistakenly believe that the criminal process begins with the arrest. However, there are many stages to the Oklahoma criminal process, and an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential to help you successfully navigate through this difficult experience.  The following outline is only meant to be a brief detail of the Oklahoma state criminal process—for more information, please consult with one of M.K. Bailey attorneys at 405-607-1177, or email our offices at

Pre-Filing Time

The time before formal charges are filed can be the most important phase of the criminal process.  A police investigation may go on for months before formal charges are filed and the individual is arrested. It is during this crucial period that a qualified and experienced lawyer can contact the investigators and negotiate on your behalf.  A good attorney will contact police investigators on your behalf and initiate a dialogue that may even result in charges never being filed.  M.K. Bailey attorneys have successfully negotiated many pre-filing issues, from preventing DUI charges to accompanying clients to meet with the District Attorney and explain their side of the case. In several of these pre-filing cases, the respect and relationships that our attorneys have built with many of the state district attorneys and police departments have helped in preventing charges to be filed against our clients.

If charges are going to be filed and an arrest is imminent, M.K. Bailey attorneys can help to make this event go as smoothly as possible, and in some instances be able to arrange arrests and walkthroughs to as not to interrupt your life and schedule. If you believe you may be under police or DHS investigation, time is of the essence. Contact our firm today to discuss your options with a qualified M.K. Bailey attorney.

Arraignment- The First Appearance

Once an individual has been arrested and charged with a felony or misdemeanor, the first court date is the Arraignment. This is held at the district courthouse in the county in which the offense occurred (or in the municipal court, if the charges are city charges). At the arraignment, the defendant is formally charged and read the Complaint.

In misdemeanor arraignment, the defendant is given the opportunity to make a plea (not guilty, guilty or no contest).  Guilty or no contest pleas may result in immediate sentencing at the misdemeanor arraignment.  Pleas are not usually taken in felony arraignments, but the defendant is advised of his right to a preliminary examination (known as a “Prelim”).

One of the most important aspects of the arraignment is the bond determination. Retaining skilled counsel can help to ensure that the bond set in your case reflects the two purposes of bond: 1) that the bond secures your presence at future court dates, and 2) that the public is protected. Often, defendants find that bond has been set at an extremely high amount—that is the main reason why having an attorney present at your arraignment is so important. M.K. Bailey attorneys have years of experience in negotiating bond determinations and can help to make sure your bond amount is not punitive. Before your arraignment date, call our attorneys for a free consultation.

Court Dates and Preliminary Hearing

After formal arraignment, many court dates will be set regarding your case. Some of these court appearances will be preliminary hearing conferences, pretrial conferences, scheduling conferences, and preliminary announcement dockets. There will also be discovery and motion hearings.  It is imperative that you have a good attorney at your side throughout this process. M.K. Bailey attorneys know that our clients rely on our skill and tenacity to make sure that the judicial process remains fair and equally balanced.

The Preliminary Hearing (“Prelim”) marks the end of the pre-trial phase of the case and the beginning of the trial phase.  At Prelim, the State must present enough evidence to establish probable cause. This means that witnesses and evidence must show that the charged crime was committed, and by the defendant. However, the burden of proof at Prelim for probable cause is much lower than at trial; often, the State will not call all the witnesses it intends to bring at trial. If the State meets this low threshold, the defendant will be “bound over” and a date will be set for trial.

The Prelim offers the defense attorney a first chance to cross-examine the State’s witnesses. It is absolutely vital that you have an attorney at your side that has both the experience and determination to make sure the State has met its burden.  The attorneys at M.K. Bailey Law Offices know that an effective cross-examination of witnesses during the preliminary hearing can often be essential to the success of the trial, and may even result in some charges being dropped or an amendment to the indictment. When trial is imminent, you cannot trust your life to individuals who are less qualified or not committed to providing you with the absolute best criminal defense.  Call our offices today.


Most people know that guilt at a criminal trial must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Some trials are bench trials, which means that both the State and the defendant agree to present the evidence and make arguments only before a judge, who will make the final determination of guilt.  Defendants are guaranteed a trial by jury, and must waive this right before a bench trial may proceed.

Jury trials have many facets, including voir dire (jury selection), trial motion hearings, as well as the actual trial examinations. Our attorneys at M.K. Bailey are experienced and successful trial attorneys, and have conducted trials in almost every county in Oklahoma. We know that each phase of trial is essential- from jury selection and peremptory challenges to making effective objections and closing statements. For each client going to trial, we take the time to carefully develop trial strategies, interview potential witnesses, and investigate the evidence presented. M.K. Bailey attorneys dedicate the time of your trial to you, and no one else. It is this commitment to our clients that makes M.K. Bailey one of the best criminal defense firms in Oklahoma. You cannot afford to waste your time or money with an attorney who will not fight for you. Please call our offices today to set up an appointment to discuss your case.

Post-Sentencing and Appeals

Every person is guaranteed the right to directly appeal a conviction. However, the timelines set for direct appeals can be very short.  Additionally, once the burden has been met at trial which resulted in conviction, the burden of proof then moves to the defendant to show that he or she was not guilty of the crime. If the defendant is denied his direct appeal, he may then appeal to a higher court, but will not be provided an attorney. Likewise, a defendant is not guaranteed legal representation for post-sentencing relief. Post- Sentencing Relief often involves petitioning the court for sentencing adjustment, or other relief, if the defendant can show one of the following:

(a) that the conviction or the sentence was in violation of the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution or laws of this state;

(b) that the court was without jurisdiction to impose sentence;

(c) that the sentence exceeds the maximum authorized by law;

(d) that there exists evidence of material facts, not previously presented and heard, that requires vacation of the conviction or sentence in the interest of justice;

(e) that his sentence has expired, his suspended sentence, probation, parole, or conditional release unlawfully revoked, or he is otherwise unlawfully held in custody or other restraint; or

(f)that the conviction or sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack upon any ground of alleged error heretofore available under any common law, statutory or other writ, motion, petition, proceeding or remedy.

The appellate and post-sentencing phases are often long and arduous, involving many hours of legal research and writing. In many cases, specific legal issues must be addressed or they are waived for the purposes of appeal. M.K. Bailey attorneys are skilled legal writers who can carefully craft your appeal to make the strongest legal arguments possible.  In some appeals, attorneys must also argue the legal issues before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, in addition to submitting large written briefs and replies.  Many appeals turn on a single legal issue—that is why it is vital to be represented by an experienced criminal attorney.

Additional Resource Links

Oklahoma Statutes: including Title 21, Crimes and Punishments, and Title 22, Criminal Procedure, available at:

Oklahoma District Attorneys Council: “Outline of Criminal Court Process” available in PDF.

To look up current or past Oklahoma cases, including court dates and docket events:

Oklahoma Self-Defense Act available in PDF at documents/SDA_Lawbook_NOV_2012.pdf

Oklahoma Department of Corrections available at

Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry available at

Oklahoma Violent Offender Registry available at

Oklahoma Concealed Carry Information available at

Oklahoma City Municipal Court Search available at TicketLookup/Forms/Disclaimer.aspx

Oklahoma County Sherriff Warrant Search available at

City of Norman Municipal Court available at

City of Tulsa Municipal Court available at

M.K. Bailey Law Offices
1001 NW 63rd Street Ste. 280
Oklahoma City, OK, 73116
Phone: 405-607-1177
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