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Oklahoma Repeals Outdated Criminal Laws, But Still Among Harshest in Nation

Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed a bill decriminalizing conduct in a variety of areas in a rare move for a state with a reputation for not only having one of the longest criminal codes in the nation but also for handing done some of the longest sentences in the country for relatively harmless behavior. As discussed here before, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is 14 times the rate of its population growth, with a 485% increase in residents put behind bars over the past several decades. Given our state’s budgetary concerns, the legislature may be well-inclined to work towards further reductions in the massive criminal code. In the meantime, those targeted by Oklahoma law enforcement are encouraged to seek the best criminal defense possible.

The Newly Decriminalized Conduct

As a result of Gov. Fallin signing Oklahoma Senate Bill 286 into law, the following types of conduct are no longer punishable by the criminal courts in Oklahoma:

  • “…falsely and maliciously or falsely and wantonly impute to any female, married or unmarried, a want of chastity…” This was previously punishable by 30 to 90 days in jail. Note that under the previous law, a defendant could defend himself by presenting evidence of the truth of a woman’s unchastity.
  • Seducing and having “illicit connection” with an unmarried female “of chaste character” under the promise of marriage. This was previously considered a felony and defendants could potentially serve 5 years in prison if convicted.

 

Although it is difficult to imagine prosecutors bringing actions against defendants for falsely calling a woman unchaste or seducing a woman in the present day, it did take the bill’s sponsor three years of effort to bring about the repeal, indicating a resistance against softening even the most outdated of criminal laws.

Oklahoma’s Reputation for Harsh Criminal Laws

Even though these two criminal laws have been repealed, the state of Oklahoma continues to have a reputation for both “absurd” and extensive criminal laws targeting harmless conduct as well as handing down extremely harsh sentences in nonviolent drug cases. We reported last year how Oklahoma’s criminal law code has over 1,200 sections, making it more than three times as lengthy as the criminal code in Texas (a state not known for being soft on crime), and criminalizing such conduct as fortune-telling and failing to close a gate behind you in a recreational area.

 

Again, such laws may seem humorous and unlikely to be enforced, but Oklahoma courts have not been afraid to hand down sentences that are excessively disproportional to the social harm targeted, including sentencing a mother of four to 12 years in prison over a $31 marijuana bust, and sending Oklahoma law enforcement authorities all the way to California to extradite a US veteran in connection with growing medical marijuana.

 

Are the criminal laws and harsh enforcement practices in Oklahoma likely to change much in the near future? Doubtful. But as a resident of Oklahoma, you should take these concerns into consideration whenever dealing with law enforcement, and take all necessary steps to defend your freedom, including working with an experienced Oklahoma criminal defense attorney.

Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian worked as an Oklahoma district attorney, and thus he has the experience of working on the other side and understands how to best fight your case and work towards a dismissal of charges, not guilty verdict, or favorable agreement with reduction of penalties and charges in your Oklahoma criminal investigation or prosecution. Contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405.294.4448 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do for you.