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November 29, 2018

New data show major change in felony filings after Oklahoma initiative defelonized various offenses

This new posting, titled "In its first year, SQ 780 reversed 10 years of growth in felony filings," reports on interesting new data out of Oklahoma concerning the impact of the passage of a criminal justice ballot initiative back in 2016. Here are details:

New data shows that State Question 780 reduced felony filings by over 14,000 across Oklahoma‚Äôs District Courts in its first year in a major realignment of how the state deals with low-level offenses.  SQ 780, approved by voters by a wide margin in 2016, reclassified simple drug possession and many minor property crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies.  Assessing the First Year of SQ 780, a new report from Open Justice Oklahoma, uses original data from aggregated District Court criminal filings in the last ten years to evaluate the impact of the justice reform ballot measure in FY 2018.  Open Justice Oklahoma, a project of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, seeks to improve understanding of our justice system through analysis of public data. The data reveal several trends:

  1. SQ 780 reversed a long trend of increasing felony and decreasing misdemeanor filings across the state.Total felony filings fell by 14,141, or 28.4 percent, in FY 2018, while total misdemeanors rose by 6,437, or 13.6 percent.

  2. Cases involving reclassified charges shifted sharply from felony to misdemeanor in FY 2018. The number of felony cases filed involving simple drug possession fell by 14,164, or 74.9 percent, and felony cases involving property crimes fell by 8,095, or 29 percent, from FY 2017 to FY 2018. Misdemeanor cases involving drug possession rose by over 160 percent, while those involving property crimes rose by over 10 percent.

  3. Filing of other cases showed little change statewide in FY 2018, but felony cases filed with possession with intent to distribute (PWID) charges rose slightly. The number of felony cases involving PWID rose by 431, or 13.6 percent, but the number filed in FY 2018 (3,604) was only slightly more than were filed in FY 2016 (3,515). The number of felony cases involving drug trafficking changed by less than one percent.

  4. The effects of SQ 780 varied across counties and District Attorney districts. Nearly all counties saw declines in felony filings; in some rural counties, like Cotton and Harper Counties, felonies dropped by more than 50 percent. Some counties saw increases in PWID cases of 200 percent or more in FY 2018 compared to the average of the previous three years, including Haskell and Dewey Counties; the patterns in these mostly rural counties suggest there could be a shift toward harsher filing practices.

November 29, 2018 at 09:05 PM | Permalink

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