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Understanding the Term “Harmless Error” in Oklahoma Criminal Law
......this Court applies the " harmless error" doctrine to errors which neither result in a miscarriage of justice nor constitute a substantial violation of a constitutional or statutory right. Thus, our law does not require perfection by the State in prosecuting a citizen. We can, and do, frequently deem harmless those errors which do not substantially violate an individual's rights. Flores v. State, 1995 OK CR 31.
The “harmless error” doctrine is hated by most criminal appeal attorneys I know. With the “harmless error” doctrine the appellate courts admit that error occurred, however, make the determination that the error was “harmless” and did not affect the outcome of the trial. The “harmless error” doctrine is often appropriately used by the appellate courts to deny frivolous claims raised by criminal appeal attorneys. However, sometime appellate courts use the “harmless error” doctrine to excuse non-frivolous claims that should lead to a reversal of a defendant's conviction.