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Criminal Justice Reform Bill Repeals Cap Law, Mandates Tougher Sentences for More Violent Offenders

(Oklahoma City) A controversial early release law will be repealed under a sweeping criminal justice reform bill approved by the State Senate.

SB 397 would do away with the so-called "cap law," in addition to lowering the legal blood alcohol content on drunk driving offenses and mandating tougher sentences for more violent criminals in Oklahoma. The legislation will also reform existing property crime statutes to ensure that the expensive, high-security prison beds are reserved for the most dangerous criminals.

"We're trying to be tough on crime and smart on crime with this legislation. It does away with early releases and puts violent offenders away for longer sentences, but it also ensures that we use our prison resources wisely by putting the right people behind bars," said Senator Dick Wilkerson, who helped draft the legislation.

Some of the provisions of SB 397 include:

  • Repeal of the "cap law" - a statute that allowed for the early release of eligible, non-violent inmates when prisons became too crowded;

  • Addition of seven more violent crimes to the so-called "deadly sins" list that requires offenders to serve no less than 85 percent of their sentence. The new crimes include second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, shooting with intent to kill, poisoning with intent to kill, assault with intent to kill, first-degree robbery and robbery committed by multiple persons. The new classifications will make Oklahoma eligible for an additional $4 million in federal funds;

  • Lower the blood alcohol content for drunk driving from .10 to .08. The change will net Oklahoma an incentive bonus of $2 million in additional federal highway funds;

  • Raise the felony limit on bogus checks and some property crimes from $50 to $500, bringing Oklahoma more in line with other states' felony limits.

"The changes should make the streets safer without taking a huge bite out of the taxpayers' pocketbooks. Our prison system has been somewhat of a budget black hole in recent years, but this should help us get a better handle on things and improve public safety at the same time," said Senator Wilkerson.

The State Senate approved SB 397 on Tuesday. The measure now goes to the House for consideration.

Contact info
Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605