Bipartisan bill introduced in Oklahoma House to retroactively apply 2016 State Question 780’s reduced criminal penalties

House Majority Leader Jon Echols (R-90) and Jason Dunnington (D-88) filed House Bill 1269 on January 17, 2019. The bill would make State Question 780 retroactive for those convicted before the measure became effective for crimes that were changed from a felony to a misdemeanor by SQ 780.

State Question 780 was on the ballot in Oklahoma on November 8, 2016, as an initiated state statute. It was approved by a vote of 58 percent to 42 percent.
 
State Question 780 changed certain non-violent drug- and theft-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, which come with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $1,000. SQ 780 was designed to reduce the number and duration of state prison sentences for those crimes. State Question 781, the companion initiative to SQ 780, was also approved. It allocated prison cost savings brought about by SQ 780 to counties in proportion to their population to be claimed by privately-run rehabilitative organizations that provide drug and mental health treatment, job training, and education programs. Both measures went into effect in July 2017.
 
Jason Dunnington (D) said, “We have Oklahomans that are labeled as felons, and their crimes would be legal or a much lesser crime today. These folks are disenfranchised, and their families are suffering. This legislation seeks to heal these wounds and continue Oklahoma down the road of responsible criminal justice reform.”
 
Ryan Gentzler, the director of Open Justice Oklahoma, estimated that House Bill 1269 would make between 2,500 and 3,000 people eligible for reduced criminal sentences right away.
 
The bill is scheduled to be read for the first time on February 4, 2019.



About the author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jackie.mitchell@ballotpedia.org

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