Is Ignorance of The Law a Defense to Criminal Charges in Oklahoma

Ignorance of The Law

We’ve all heard the adage – ignorance of the law is no excuse. But is it true for crimes committed in Oklahoma? The law in Oklahoma is quite clear: Ignorance of the law does not excuse from punishment for its violation.” (21 OK Stat § 21-152.) This would seem to answer the question in the affirmative – yes, you can be convicted of a crime in Oklahoma even if you didn’t know you were breaking the law. However, as with all aspects of the legal system, there is some nuance to this assertion.

Ignorance Of The Law and Possible Exceptions

There are a few scenarios where ignorance of the law may be a defense against breaking the law. One possible scenario occurs if the law requires a knowing violation. To be convicted of a crime in Oklahoma you must have an intent to commit the crime and the act or a substantial step or act to do the crime. The intent is sometimes called mens rea. The law in Oklahoma criminal law goes one step further by classifying crimes into general intent crimes and specific intent crimes.

In Oklahoma some laws are worded in such a way that one must have the mental state or mens rea of knowing they are violating the law to be convicted of violating the law. An example of this is the crime of receiving stolen property. In Oklahoma, it is illegal to receive property that has been stolen if you know the property has been stolen or have reasonable cause to believe the property has been stolen. Therefore, if you had no idea the property was stolen (and had no reason to believe it was stolen), you likely have not committed the crime of receiving stolen property.

More Examples and Exceptions To The Rule

Another example is burglary. Burglary requires that the defendant intended to commit a felony. If the defendant did not know that their actions were a crime, it could be argued that they could not have intended to commit a felony.

Another potential scenario where ignorance of the law could be raised as a defense is if a new law has not been well publicized. This applies especially if the criminal behavior is legal in other places. It is never advisable to break the law, but if you do find yourself in a situation where you have broken a law that you did not realize existed, and it is a new and unusual law, you and your lawyer may be able to negotiate a better outcome to criminal charges if you had no idea that what you did was criminal.

Knowledge Of The Law Versus Knowledge Of Facts

Although ignorance of the law is rarely (if ever) an excuse in Oklahoma, a mistake of fact can be a defense. This applies particularly when a specific intent is required for a conviction of a crime.

One example is resisting arrest – a person must knowingly resist an officer to be guilty of resisting arrest. Another example is giving a false statement during an investigation. It is not a crime to make a false statement if you did not know it was false at the time the statement was made. A further example involves concealing an escaped prisoner. It is illegal in Oklahoma to knowingly conceal an escaped prisoner from authorities. But if you did not know that the person is an escaped prisoner, you are unlikely to have violated this law.

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Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys Near You

Criminal defense clients are surprised how limited knowledge of whether something they do is legal or illegal can land them in jail. Its even true that many things we actually do on a day to day basis may in fact be illegal or otherwise old and outdated laws not yet removed form the books. If you are a suspect in a crime be careful answering Police questions without your lawyer and get criminal defense help quick. For a free and confidential with one of our Tulsa Oklahoma criminal lawyers contact the Kania Law Office at 918.743.2233 or contact us online today.

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Law ScaleAre you looking for Tulsa attorneys who will fight aggressively for you? Our team of criminal defense attorneys have the experience needed in Oklahoma law to secure the outcome you deserve.

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