SB 1120 Only Applies to Very Specific Circumstances
Video Transcribed: Should Oklahoma pass Kyle’s Law to hold malicious prosecutors accountable? I’m Oklahoma attorney James Wirth. We’re talking about a new proposed bill in Oklahoma. And it was a file submitted by Senator Nathan Dahm from Broken Arrow.
It is Oklahoma Senate Bill 1120, and they’re calling it Kyle’s Law after Kyle Rittenhouse, where it essentially provides that if somebody is charged with murder and is later acquitted due to a self-defense argument if certain conditions are met, then that person may be entitled to compensation related to it being a malicious prosecution. And what it provides is that all reasonable costs, including loss of wages, legal fees incurred, and other expenses involved in the defense may be recoverable by the defendant if they can show that the prosecution was malicious.
And to be malicious essentially needs to show that it was instigated by a prosecutor without probable cause, that the prosecution has legally and finally been terminated in favor of the defendant, essentially the defendant won the case, was acquitted at trial, and that the claimant sustained an injury.
Well, there’s always going to be an injury under those circumstances. So that’s going to be an easy one to meet. But in order to show some malice or talking about some ill or hatred or willful or wanton or oppressive manner in conscious disregard of the claimant’s rights, of the defendant’s rights in this case, would be required to show that it’s malicious or that there was some other intent by the prosecutor other than just the intent to bring an offender to justice.
So should that be a law in Oklahoma? Should House, or I’m sorry, Senate Bill 1120 be passed? Put your notes in the comment section. Let me know what you think about that. Personally, my thoughts are on it, one, it’s very narrowly tailored. It only applies to very specific circumstances where you’re charged with murder. It doesn’t apply to other crimes.
If we’re looking at trying to reduce malicious prosecution or over-prosecution or overly burdensome prosecution, I would want it more sweeping in that regard to applying to one crime. On the other hand, it’s if you did apply it that way or across the board, I think there would be some concerns.
We’ve got citizens on the jury that have to decide innocence or guilt. They have to hold the state to their burden beyond a reasonable doubt. I would hate them to be thinking, “Well, I think this guy may be innocent, but I’m not sure. But I really don’t want the state to have to pay his defense bill. So is that going to be pressure for me to convict where I otherwise wouldn’t?”
So there are those types of concerns as well. Definitely being an attorney that’s handled criminal defense, I think I’ve seen some certain abuses by the system, by law enforcement, by prosecutors that are just in this position of power. And they have a tendency to utilize it sometimes to the disadvantage of people with lesser means.
But you’ve got to be careful about how you address that. And for a law that only applies to these very narrow circumstances and does have that possibility of influencing a jury to convict, just to avoid the state from having to pay defense bills and lost wages and all of these other potential damages, it may not be the best law. But let me hear your thoughts on it. Comment below.
If you’ve got questions, though, for an attorney, you’re going to want to talk to somebody in private, confidentially about your specific circumstances rather than just getting general information from a video. To get that scheduled with somebody at my office, you can go online to makelaweasy.com.