The Presumption of Innocence Remains Until They’re Found Guilty At Trial
Video Transcribed: Oklahoma court of criminal appeals accidentally proves that just because you’re arrested doesn’t mean you’re guilty. I’m Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney James Wirth. And I was listening to the radio this morning and they were reporting on a crime that is getting some media attention. It’s related to a somewhat heinous offense regarding a child. And the broadcaster was noting that it’s an alleged perpetrator of this crime.
And he noted that he was upset, kind of joking around that he had to say alleged, insinuating that this is a horrible person. Of course, this person hasn’t been convicted. And that’s why we talk about it being alleged.
In the United States, we have a presumption of innocence until we are convicted. And the standard for an arrest is a very low state of probable cause as opposed to the very high standard of beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, which is why we all know that just because you are arrested, does not mean you’re guilty.
However, there does seem to be in all of this, this assumption, when you hear something on the news to presume that somebody is guilty. And we got a case from The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals that accidentally proves that that is not always the case. And although that’s not what it intends to do, that’s the way that I’m reading it when I’m thinking about this. There’s a recent case, Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. It’s actually a published opinion 2021.
But the probable cause standard is the same standard to arrest, which just makes it interesting here today. But whether probable cause is affected by the smell of marijuana, now that we have medical marijuana in Oklahoma. And we got this decision and it’s made by judge Lumpkin.
And he decided that saying that probable cause is a low standard. And in determining whether the fact that it’s perfectly legal now for many, many people in the state of Oklahoma to possess quantities of medical marijuana-based on them having an OMMA license.
Nonetheless, the court held that in determining whether probable cause exists, the decriminalization of marijuana possession for those holding medical marijuana licenses in no way affects a police officer’s formation of probable cause based on the presence or odor of marijuana.
So essentially what the ruling is, is if you smell marijuana, that’s probable cause for a search of your vehicle. But because probable cause is also the exact standard for arrest, we’d also have to assume that smelling marijuana has probable cause to arrest.
And further disturbing in the opinion, Lumpkin goes on to say, that while the production of a medical marijuana license may constitute in affirmative defense to the crime, and then it goes on from there.
But essentially, it’s not saying it’s an absolute defense to the crime. It’s not saying the state of Oklahoma has to prove that this person possessing marijuana doesn’t have a license. You can be arrested, thrown in jail, brought before a judge. Now it’s your obligation to prove that you have a license because it’s an affirmative defense, meaning that it is on the defendant to prove that not on the state.
So what that means is that there is potentially a huge risk of people being arrested for possession of marijuana even though it’s perfectly legal, because that is how low The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals shows the probable cause standard to be related to a search, which is the same standard related to a person being arrested.
So when you’re talking about probable cause and someone being arrested, just remember the highest criminal court in the state of Oklahoma has ruled that just smelling marijuana on you or you possessing marijuana even if you may have an OMMA medical marijuana card, is probable cause. You could be arrested just for that. Does that mean that you’re guilty of possessing marijuana in violation of the law? It certainly doesn’t.
And just the same way that probable cause is that low standard, really low based on this decision from The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, it can be applied to anything else. That is the standard it takes to arrest somebody. So the state does have to prove their case later.
And as the general public, we just need to remember probable cause to arrest just means probable cause. If they’re arrested, that means that’s the only thing they necessarily had to find is that low standard of probable cause. It does not mean guilt.
The presumption of innocence remains until they’re found guilty at trial. If you’ve got questions or facing any of these issues, fourth amendment issues, the likes, you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about your specifics confidentially. If you’d like to do that with one of our criminal lawyers Tulsa, OK in my office, you can go online to makelaweasy.com.