The Oklahoma Indigent Defense System implements the Indigent Defense Act, 51 O.S. Section 1355 et seq., by providing trial, appellate and post-conviction criminal defense services to persons who have been judicially determined to be entitled to legal counsel at State expense. The mission of the System is to provide indigents with legal representation comparable to that obtainable by those who can afford counsel and to do so in the most cost effective manner possible.
The System is a state agency created effective July 1, 1991. The System is appointed by the courts to represent all adult and juvenile indigents in 75 counties who are charged in felony, misdemeanor and traffic cases punishable by incarceration. The System is further appointed by the courts to represent all indigents in 75 counties where the State is seeking the death penalty. The System does not represent defendants charged in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties, nor does it handle civil juvenile proceedings such as juvenile deprived cases or termination of parental rights proceedings
Upon conviction, the System is appointed by the courts to represent indigent defendants on direct appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and, in death penalty cases, in post-conviction proceedings before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The System is responsible for capital and non-capital direct appeals from judgments and sentences imposed in 75 counties. That responsibility extends to appeals from judgments and sentences imposed in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties if 1) the indigent appellant was represented at trial by retained counsel, 2) the appellant was represented by court-appointed counsel other than the county public defender, or 3) the county defender has a conflict of interest on appeal. The System is responsible for all capital post-conviction appeals in the State, including those where the indigent appellant was represented by a county defender on direct appeal. However, the System does not handle non-capital post-conviction applications except in the rare circumstances when they are substantively related to an active trial-level or active appellate proceeding to which the System has been appointed.