District Attorney: Oklahoma Measure On November’s Ballot Is “Scary”
A local district attorney says his office will soon start a campaign opposing an issue on November’s ballot. State question 780 will ask voters if certain drug offenses should be reclassified from a felony to misdemeanor.
Lindsey Turner is at Ottawa County court for drug charges.
“Any charge on your name is a big deal, to me. That’s just me, personally,” says Turner.
The district attorney for Ottawa and Delaware counties disagrees. He says there’s a big difference of effectiveness between a felony drug charge and misdemeanor charge.
“It has got to be prison or inpatient. If they’re not faced with that choice, you’re not going to get them into treatment,” says District Attorney Kenny Wright.
Wright says felony charges carry weight, and change.
“Misdemeanors carry no more than a year in jail. A felony generally carries in excess of a year,” says Wright.
Oklahoma state question 780 on next month’s ballot would change how people caught with a certain amount of drugs will be charged with a crime. Drug dealers and traffickers would still be charged with felonies. In Oklahoma, 20 grams or more of meth is considered trafficking.
“A single dosage of meth is generally a quarter gram,” says Wright.
Wright says if question 780 passes, a person caught with 19 grams of meth for their own use, worth about $1,900, would only be charged with a misdemeanor; even if it’s near or on school property, and no matter how many drug convictions are against a person.
“That seems like nonsense,” says Wright.
Questions 780 and 781 say there could be cost savings with not having to house drug offenders in prison.
“I think people need second chances,” says Turner.
“The bulk of that big bunch serving big time in prison, they’re there for rape, murder, manslaughter, first degree robbery, first degree burglary,” says Wright.
Although Wright is against question 780, people like Turner may have the upper hand. Wright says recent polls show a majority of Oklahomans strongly support the measure.
The district attorney also says question 780 would change how car burglaries are prosecuted. A person convicted of breaking into a vehicle and stealing would only be charged with a misdemeanor.