Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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In April 2014, Tulsa police officers seized cash from the claimant-appellant Austin Hingey, pursuant to three search warrants relating to alleged drug sales. As a result of the seizures, the State filed three forfeiture cases. The last case, pertinent here, concerned $325,080.00 found in a storage unit. Hingey objected to the forfeitures and sought return of the money. The trial court consolidated the cases. The State dismissed the case concerning $5,530.00 during trial. A jury returned a verdict determining that the $2,121.00, and $25,080.00 of the $325,080.00, should have also been returned to Hingey. Subsequently, Hingey sought recovery of his attorney fees pursuant to 63 O.S. Supp. 2016 section 2-506, which became effective November 1, 2016. The trial court limited the award of attorney fees to those incurred only after November 1, 2016, and then awarded Hingey approximately 10% of his requested attorney fees because he recovered approximately 10% of what he originally sought to recover. Hingey appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, determining that the trial court should have applied the attorney fee statute retroactively. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari and held that: (1) 63 O.S. Supp. 2016 sec. 2-506 applied retroactively; (2) the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney fees based on the percentage of the amount of money recovered compared to the amount sought to be recovered; and (3) the claimant was also entitled to appeal related attorney fees. View "Oklahoma ex rel. Harris v. $325,080" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2010, plaintiff-appellant James Payne pled nolo contendere to stalking in Case No. CF-2010-27 in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. He received a five-year deferment with special rules and conditions of probation. He was required to have no contact with the stalking victim. In addition, Payne pled guilty to violating a protective order in many other cases filed in Pittsburg County related to the same victim and was sentenced to six months in the county jail. The sentences were to run concurrently. He received extra credits and was released from custody on May 5, 2010. A month later, on June 10, 2010, the district attorney filed a motion to accelerate the deferred judgment for probation violations, alleging Payne had been contacting and harassing the victim. The district court issued a felony warrant and Payne was arrested and booked into jail by the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office on June 11, 2010. Payne did not post bail and remained in the county jail. The district court ultimately executed a minute order finding Payne guilty of violating the terms of his deferred sentence, for which he received a five year sentence: four suspended and one year to serve in the Department of Corrections. Payne received credit for time served in the county jail since his June 10 arrest. The Judgment and Sentence ordered Payne into DOC custody and directed the Pittsburg Sheriff's office to transfer Payne to the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center to begin serving his time in DOC custody. The Sheriff's Office of Pittsburg County did not transfer Payne to the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center (LARC) until September 6, 2011, almost three months past the end of his sentence. Payne was released that same day without serving any of his time in DOC custody. Payne sue various Pittsburg county corrections and governmental officials, arguing his constitutional rights had been violated because he remained in custody beyond his sentence. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari on the remaining issue preserved for review, i.e., whether a private right of action under Article 2 Section 9 of the Oklahoma Constitution existed under the facts of this case. The Court held a private right of action existed at the time Payne was detained past his sentence, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Payne v. Kerns" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellee Jake Watkins was driving under the influence of alcohol and rear-ended a vehicle owned and operated by plaintiff-appellant Lee McIntosh. McIntosh's vehicle was damaged and he and the former co-plaintiff Anthony McIntosh were injured. Both vehicles pulled over to the shoulder of the road and the parties exited their vehicles to discuss the accident and to inspect the damage. At some point plaintiff stated he needed to call the police to report the accident. When Watkins heard this he returned to his vehicle and fled the scene without providing McIntosh any information required by law. Watkins was later arrested and charged with two counts: (1) driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; and (2) leaving the scene of an accident involving damage. He pled no contest to the two counts and received a deferred judgment and sentence.Months late, McIntosh signed a settlement agreement which settled all of his bodily injury claims for the sum of $25,000.00. McIntosh was also paid $17,545.66 to fully repair his vehicle and an additional $7,000.00 for the diminution of value claim. The only remaining issue left to be decided by the trial court was whether McIntosh was entitled to receive treble damages for the damage sustained to his vehicle. Watkins moved for summary judgment on the treble damages issue, which the trial court granted, finding McIntosh was not entitled to treble damages due to the fact he had incurred not only property damage to his vehicle but he also sustained a nonfatal injury. McIntosh appealed the trial court's ruling on that issue. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding the treble damage provision in 47 O.S. 2011, section 10-103 applied even if a victim sustains an injury. View "McIntosh v. Watkins" on Justia Law

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In 2008, the Purcell, Oklahoma Police Department arrested the petitioner-appellee, D. A. for Larceny of CDS (a controlled dangerous substance), unlawful possession of CDS and obtaining CDS by forgery/fraud. The State charged her with three felonies. Upon the State's request, the trial court dismissed the larceny and obtaining CDS by forgery/fraud; subsequently, the court entered a five year deferred sentence for the remaining count of possession of CDS. Then in October 2010, the McClain County Sheriff arrested D.A. for two counts of obtaining (or attempted) CDS by forgery/fraud. A plea deal provided that, upon successful completion of drug court, the latest two counts would be dismissed. However, if she did not successfully complete drug court, then she would receive fifteen years with the Department of Corrections. In 2013, D.A. was accepted into a drug court in McClain County. She successfully completed drug court, and the trial.court dismissed D.A.' two nonviolent felony counts in 2015. In 2017, D.A. filed a petition for expungement of both of her arrests, charges, and court dispositions pursuant to 22 O.S. Supp 2016 section 18(7). The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) entered an appearance and objected, arguing that a drug court's dismissal of charges upon the successful completion of the program was statutorily exempt from eligibility for expungement. The trial court denied the OSBI's objection and granted the petition for expungement. The OSBI appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held a drug court's dismissal following successful conclusion of the drug court program was not excluded from expungement under 22 O.S. Supp. 2016 section 18, and may be expunged immediately, after successful completion of the program and the charges have been dismissed. View "D. A. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation" on Justia Law

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Russell Foutch and Randall Barrios died while incarcerated in Oklahoma jails: Barrios by his own hand; Foutch from complications related to pneumonia. Their estates sued the respective jails, one sheriff, and various employees and healthcare contractors of those jails. Their claims included: (1) federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the federal constitution; (2) negligence and wrongful death claims; (3) negligent conduct, training, hiring, and supervision claims; and (4) tort claims alleging violations of rights guaranteed by Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution. Two federal courts certified questions of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court: (1) the Governmental Tort Claims Act renders the State immune from any tort suit arising out of the "[p]rovision, equipping, operation or maintenance of any prison, jail or correctional facility." Do Sections 7 and 9 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution nonetheless allow an inmate to bring a tort claim for denial of medical care? and (2) if so, is the private cause of action to be recognized retrospectively? Responding required the Court to determine whether to extend the holding in Bosh v. Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority (305 P.3d 994) to include tort claims brought by inmates alleging violations of their rights to due process and to be free from cruel or unusual punishments. The Oklahoma Legislature responded to Bosh by amending the Governmental Tort Claims Act ("GTCA"), 51 O.S. 151 et seq., to clarify that the State's immunity from suit extended even to so-called "constitutional" torts. The Court, therefore, answered the first certified question "no," and did not reach the second question. View "Barrios v. Haskell County Public Facilities Authority" on Justia Law

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Appellant, John Burks was a bondsman who posted one hundred thousand dollar ($100,000) bail for defendant Billy Durfey in a criminal case. Durfey did not appear in court and the court forfeited the bond. On December 15, 2014, the same day that Durfey failed to appear, the bondsman made a written request to the Sheriff's office that Durfey be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. The bondsman did not place any restrictions or limitations on his request and he signed a letter agreeing to pay for all extradition expenses incurred in returning Durfey to Garvin County, Oklahoma. Days later, Burks learned that the Sheriff's office had entered Durfey into the database, but that the extradition directive had been geographically limited to Oklahoma and its surrounding states. At his own expense, Burks conducted an investigation for Durfey which led him to Montana. Local law enforcement, however, was unable to assist Burks because Durfey was not listed in the NCIC database due to the restrictions placed by the Garvin County Sherriff. Burks again contacted the Sheriff's office and asked that any territorial restrictions be removed. It was not until the Bondsman obtained information that Durfey may have traveled to Mexico that an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper assigned to the U.S. Marshal's office got involved. The Sheriff ultimately lifted the geographical restrictions pursuant to the Highway Patrol's request. The bondsman paid the bond forfeiture after he was unable to apprehend Durfey and return him to Garvin County. The only question presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case was whether, under the facts of this case, the bondsman was entitled to remittance of the posted bond pursuant to 59 O.S. Supp. 2014 section 1332. The Supreme Court found Burks fully complied with 59 O.S. Supp. 2014 section 1332, yet the Sheriff did not honor his request within the statutory period. Consequently, the bond was exonerated by operation of law. Burks presented convincing evidence of good cause why Durfey did not appear. The bondsman was entitled to remittance of the posted bond pursuant to statute. View "Oklahoma v. Durfey" on Justia Law

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Daniel Phillips was convicted of multiple counts of indecent or lewd acts with children under the age of sixteen. The mother of the children sued Phillips, alleging various torts arising out of his crimes. The mother moved for partial summary judgment in the case, arguing that Phillips's conviction for the crimes established his liability for the torts. In response, Phillips argued that because his conviction was the product of an Alford plea--where a defendant admitted there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction, but nonetheless insisted that he did not commit the crimes--his conviction could not preclude him from disputing liability in the civil case. The district court agreed with the mother, granting partial summary adjudication in her favor on the issue of liability. Phillips asked the district court to certify that decision for immediate review. The district court did so, and Phillips timely petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court for certiorari. The Court granted the petition and, finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, affirmed. View "Martin v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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Appellant Robert Parsons was charged with first degree murder, but was subsequently adjudged not guilty by reason of insanity. At a hearing following Appellant's acquittal, the trial court determined he was a continuing threat of danger to the public, and ordered him committed to the Oklahoma Forensic Center. After making progress in his treatment, the Oklahoma Forensic Review Board recommended Appellant begin a group therapy program one day per week at a facility outside of OFC. The District Attorney protested the FRB's treatment proposal, and the trial judge sustained the State's objection. Appellant sought review of the trial court's ruling; however, the OCCA transferred the matter to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. At issue was whether the case presented criminal or civil law issues. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found the issues pertaining to Appellant's therapeutic visits, under 22 O.S.2011 sec. 1161(F), were civil in nature and were properly within its jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court's order sustaining the State's objection to therapeutic visits was erroneous. View "Parsons v. Dist. Court of Pushmataha Cty." on Justia Law

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In October 2015, Petitioner Adam Fry brought a proceeding for an order to "deregister" as a sex offender. Petitioner contended he was entitled to this relief based on an earlier order entered by the sentencing judge in his Pottawatomie County criminal case. In that case, Petitioner received a five year deferred sentence based on his plea to a charge of rape by instrumentation. As a consequence of this sentence, Petitioner was originally required to register as a sex offender for life. In October 2009, however, the sentencing judge granted an "override" of Petitioner's lifetime registration requirement, pursuant to 57 O.S.Supp.2008, sec. 582.5(D). The sentencing judge's override order reduced the period for registration to fifteen years from the completion of his five year deferred sentence. Section 582.5(D) was repealed, effective November 1, 2009. While not participating in the Pottawatomie County proceeding, Department of Corrections (DOC) received the override order and did not seek relief therefrom either in the district court or on appeal. In October 2015, Petitioner sought deregistration because DOC would not honor the Pottawatomie County override order. Over the objection of DOC, the district court in Canadian County enforced the Pottawatomie County override order and ordered that Petitioner be removed from the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry. DOC appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court that in cases like Petitioner's, where override relief was timely sought and granted pursuant to section 582.5(D), and neither the prosecuting District Attorney nor DOC appealed, or otherwise timely challenged the override order, DOC was required to honor and implement the "requirements of registration" adjudicated in such an order. The Court affirmed the deregistration order. View "Fry v. Oklahoma ex rel Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Replevin is not the only remedy to recover that is no longer needed as evidence. An inmate acting pro se filed a pleading in his criminal case, seeking return of a computer, a photo camera and a movie camera, alleging this property had nothing to do with the criminal charges. The inmate called his pleading a petition for writ of replevin. In response, the District Attorney denied ever having custody of the property. The trial court denied relief, ruling: (1) the inmate failed to follow proper procedure provided by statute to initiate replevin; and (2) he could not use a writ to try to regain property from a party that does not possess such property. The inmate appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed that replevin was not a remedy available to the inmate here. However, the Court concluded that other remedies may have been available, so the case was remanded for the trial court to consider granting relief pursuant to 22 O.S.2001, section 1321. View "Kolosha v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law