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December 2016 Archives

Can I Use Entrapment as a Defense in Oklahoma?

“Entrapment” is one of those legal phrases that has found its way into the popular culture, and so everyone has some kind of idea what it means, but these assumptions are usually wrong. Even the blockbuster 1999 movie Entrapment starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones was completely wrong in its application of the term (for starters, only law enforcement or their agents can entrap an individual, and not a private insurance investigator). So what is entrapment, and when does it serve as a defense to a crime in Oklahoma?

Defining Entrapment

Entrapment in Oklahoma (and most other jurisdictions for that matter) is present when a person has no previous intent or purpose to commit a crime but is induced to commit a crime by law enforcement. There is no entrapment, however, when a person does have a readiness or willingness to commit a crime and law enforcement officers or their agents then facilitate the crime, even if no crime would have occurred without the assistance of law enforcement.

The Bicycle Thief and the Bicycle Not-a-Thief

Let’s take an example of a brand-new, expensive bicycle placed without a lock outside of a large store by a plain-clothed police officer who is waiting around the corner remotely monitoring the situation. If a young man walks along, sees the bicycle, and makes off with it, intending to keep or sell it, then the police officer can arrest the young man for theft, there is no entrapment defense because the officer did nothing to induce the young man to form the intent to commit the crime but rather merely provided the opportunity.

New Federal Rule Makes it Easier for FBI to Remotely Hack into Your Computer

The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures of you and your property by the government. Remember, though, that the Fourth Amendment was ratified in 1789, a time when the concept of computers and specifically the ability to access property instantly from anywhere in the world via the internet was unthinkable. Nowadays, law enforcement organizations like the FBI have the ability to hack into personal computers anywhere in the country and indeed the world and gather information that might be used against you in building a criminal investigation and prosecuting you, but the FBI must still comply with the prohibitions of the Fourth Amendment and the relevant federal rules of criminal procedure. At the start of December, a new rule made it all the more easier for the FBI to legally hack into computers nationwide from any vantage point, which will make the private computer data of all residents, including victims of crime, more susceptible to search and seizure by the government.

Report Takes Aim at Oklahoma’s “Absurd” Overcriminalization of Harmless Conduct

For decades, politicians have taken aim at the increasing amount of regulation that business owners face at the state and federal level, pointing out the drag such regulations take on economic growth. But rarely have those same leaders looked at the ever-increasing amount of criminal laws that seem to serve no one’s needs while criminalizing harmless behavior. A recently released report by the Manhattan Institute entitled, “Overcriminalizing the Sooner State” takes aim at some of the pointless criminal laws created in Oklahoma which “often place individuals in legal jeopardy for unknowingly engaging in seemingly innocuous, but nonetheless illegal, conduct” and result in “absurd” arrests, including the arrest of an Oklahoma bartender for infusing vodka with pickles and bacon.

Oklahoma Has a Criminal Code Ten Times Longer Than the National Model

Oklahoma legislators have created an average of 26 new criminal laws a year over the past six to create a criminal code that has 1,232 sections, or more than ten times the length of the Model Penal Code (created by the National Law Institute as a guide for state legislatures) and longer than the criminal codes in Texas, which has 387 sections, and Kansas, which has 362 sections. At that length, ordinary citizens cannot be expected to know what is and is not illegal, meaning they run the risk of being branded criminals based on conduct that they never realized was against the law.

Oklahoma Law Criminalizes Behavior Regardless of Intent

Some of the more strange and unexpected criminal laws that Oklahoma has on its books include laws criminalizing:

  • violating the Sabbath

  • the practice of fortune-telling

  • “...casting contumelious reproach or profane ridicule upon God”

  • “[f]ailure to leave any gates, doors, fences, road blocks and obstacles or signs in the condition in which they were found, while engaged in the recreational use of the land of another”

  • advertisement for sale of pets by an unlicensed commercial pet breeder

  • failure to conspicuously post certain information at job sites

  • unknowingly interfering with an inspection

  • unknowingly assisting a bondsman whose license has been revoked

While some of these laws are rarely if ever enforced, they nevertheless create a climate in which citizens can be branded criminals and face jail time for harmless actions. Worse still, because some of the laws target behavior regardless of whether the actor knew that he was engaging in the behavior (e.g. “unknowingly”), the law wrongfully targets people regardless of intent.

Oklahoma Makes Workplace Actions Criminal

The report also points out that Oklahoma law takes aim at workplace issues that other states would treat as purely civil matters. For example, a speech pathologist can be charged with a crime for failing to follow state law with respect to his or her work. Other professions that are governed by Oklahoma’s criminal law include:

  • Barbers

  • Athletic trainers

  • Dieticians

  • Welders

  • Interior Designers

As the report points out, many of these laws are not even created by state legislators but are instead delegated to administrators to create, placing “well-meaning Oklahomans at risk of prison for unknowingly violating rules promulgated by unelected officials.”

Legal Representation in Your Oklahoma Criminal Prosecution

While some of Oklahoma’s laws and arrests seem funny, getting arrested and facing criminal charges is no laughing matter. If you have been arrested and/or charged with a crime in Oklahoma, or are under investigation, it is important to work with a criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and your freedom.

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