If you ask most people “is trespassing a crime?” Nearly all of them would say yes. It isn’t uncommon to find “no trespassing signs” in front of someone’s house or business. While Oklahoma does have a trespassing statute, it requires very specific elements that are rarely ever met.
Oklahoma’s largest trespassing statute is trespassing after being forbidden. This is what most people think of when they think of trespassing. However, this requires a very specific set of circumstances. The statute prevents you from entering property after being “expressly forbidden to do so.”
You can't be forbidden by just anyone in order to be officially trespassed – only law enforcement individuals or the courts can forbid someone. Meaning that if you are convicted of a crime at a certain location, are given a no contact order, and you choose to go back, you are guilty of trespass. Additionally, if law enforcement tells you that you cannot go back to a location and you are “trespassed” from that area, but you go back anyway, you can be guilty of a trespass.
If you are found guilty of a trespass in one of these circumstances, you can only be fined up to $250. The charge does not carry jail time or a probation period.
For example, if you steal something from Walmart and are convicted of larceny of merchandise from a retailer, you are given a trespass from Walmart and you cannot go back to that location. If you choose to go back, you can be charged with trespassing after being forbidden.
Not all forms of trespassing are treated equally. Within Oklahoma's statute for trespassing after being forbidden is a provision that provides special exceptions for pecan groves. Unlike with other forms of property, trespassing is a crime on a pecan grove.
While the reasons for this are unclear, it most likely dates back to when criminal laws were enacted in Oklahoma. Being an agricultural state, we were most likely trying to protect our farmers and ranchers from people who would steal their crops.
Unlike with general trespassing after being forbidden, trespassing on a pecan grove can carry jail time. If you merely enter the pecan grove, you can only be fined $25. However, if you enter the pecan grove and attempt to commit waste, theft, or damage, you will be guilty of a misdemeanor that carries up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
All property owned by the Grand River Dam Authority is given special protections under the trespassing statute as well. If you trespass on any GRDA property, you can be fined $250. Like with the pecan grove, if you trespass and then attempt to commit waste, damage, or theft while on the property, you can be given a fine between $50-$500 and 30 days to 6 months in jail.
The governor’s mansion also receives special protections under the trespassing statute. Anyone who enters the property boundaries of the Governor's mansion is guilty of trespassing and can be fined up to $500 and can receive a jail sentence between 30 days and 6 months. Unlike with the pecan grove and GRDA property, you do not need to enter and attempt to commit waste, damage, or theft. Merely entering is sufficient to constitute trespassing.
Does Oklahoma’s lack of a broad State trespassing law mean people can go wherever they want and there aren’t any laws to prevent it? No, it certainly doesn’t; there merely aren’t any state laws that directly prevent it. However, nearly every city has a city ordinance against trespassing.
This can lead to serious confusion whenever someone is arrested. Each city ordinance is different, and has a different punishment and different elements of the crime. This means you may feel what you are doing is not trespassing, but still be in violation of the city ordinance. It also means someone who trespasses in one city may receive a much harsher punishment than someone who trespasses just a few miles over in a different city.
The lack of a uniform trespassing statute makes it difficult for the ordinary person to know what they can and can’t legally do. It also prevents most people from knowing what your punishment may be if they are charged with trespassing.
While the State doesn’t have a general trespassing statute, they do have many broad criminal statutes that give prosecutors the ability to charge you with a crime if they believe your behavior is criminal.
Disturbing the peace is the most common example. It is a very broad statute and can fit almost anything. In most cases of trespassing, the property owner doesn’t want you on the property and calls the police. While the prosecutor can’t charge you with trespassing per se, they can charge you with “disturbing the peace” of that property owner.
Additionally, breaking and entering can always be charged. If you choose to enter someone else's property you may not be charged with trespass, but you can almost certainly be charged with breaking and entering or even burglary. Don't read this and think it is legal to enter the homes or businesses of others without permission -- there are still many other crimes they can charge you with.
Oklahoma doesn’t have a general trespassing statute. However, most cities do have trespassing ordinances in place, allowing the city municipality to charge you instead.
Additionally, there are many broad statutes within Oklahoma that prosecutors can use to charge you, even if you may think you are only committing trespassing. If you have been charged with trespassing or a trespassing related crime, you may have a strong case against it. Give us a call for a free consultation on your case.
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