Correcting An Excessive Sentence
Besides reversing a conviction on appeal or during post-conviction proceedings, people with criminal convictions in Oklahoma have access to three legal actions that can reduce or even erase the impact of a criminal conviction. In this article, we’ll explore the purpose and impact of commuting a sentence in Oklahoma.
A commutation is unlike a pardon, which “forgives” an individual for a crime they committed; an expungement, which removes a previous conviction from an offenders record; or parole, which allows an inmate to leave the confinement of prison and serve the remainder of their sentence under supervised release, in that commutation changes the punishment of someone convicted of a crime. A commutation reduces the severity of an individual’s sentence, such as from life without the possibility of parole to life with the possibility of parole or a reduction in the set number of years an inmate is required to serve. However, it is essential to note that while commutation may result in the State releasing an inmate from prison early, its purpose is to correct an unjust or excessive sentence.
Though it differs in significant ways, procedurally, commutation shares similarities with the pardon and parole process in that, only the Governor can approve the commutation of a sentence following a favorable recommendation from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
The Commutation Process
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board uses a two-stage process to review applications for commutation.
Stage One is a Qualification Review. During this stage, the Board will conduct what they refer to as a “jacket review,” which entails scouring the Application submitted by the offender to determine whether there exists merit. If the Board determines there is merit in hearing further arguments from the offender, they will pass the individual on to the second stage of the process.
Stage Two is the Commutation Hearing. Applicants who make it to this stage can personally appear with the Pardon and Parole Board through video conferencing. An applicant offender can also have input from family, friends, and a legal representative at this stage (collectively referred to as delegates). Delegates may submit letters supporting the commutation application to be reviewed by the Board. Up to two delegates may appear before the Board–though only one delegate may speak. That person is limited to five total minutes.
Following the Commutation Hearing, the Pardon and Parole Board will vote to either 1) recommend a commutation or 2) deny the request. If the Board votes to recommend commutation, they forward that recommendation to the Governor. The Governor has the exclusive right to approve commutation.
Oklahoma Commutation Attorney
The stakes can be extremely high for commutations–perhaps even the difference between life and death. If you are considering a commutation application for yourself or a loved one, it is best to contact an attorney who can correctly pursue the process and ensure you have the right delegate speaking on your behalf. An Oklahoma City commutation attorney with Wirth Law Office can be the advocate you need to negotiate this complicated process.
For a free consultation with an Oklahoma City commutation attorney, call Wirth Law Office – Oklahoma City at 405-888-5400. You can also submit an email question from the top right corner of this page. We will respond to all inquiries as soon as possible.