Citizens are currently at risk of legal trouble for unknowingly committing minor offenses; Oklahoma is adding 26 new crimes to the books each year
NEW YORK, NY – Oklahoma residents face risk of prosecution for unknowingly breaking a growing and unnavigable list of ambiguous and redundant laws and regulations. A new report from the Manhattan Institute details the size and scope of Oklahoma’s overcriminalization problem—and what to do about it. The report is the latest in the Manhattan Institute’s “Overcriminalizing America” project, which identifies and assesses potentially harmful trends in state criminal lawmaking.
Authors James R. Copland and Rafael Mangual find that Oklahoma’s criminal code is the largest in the surrounding region; it contains 1,232 sections, compared to 387 in Texas and 774 in Missouri. Many of these do not require criminal intent, meaning individuals can be held criminally responsible for unknowing violations. For example, residents can face arrest for acts as harmless as infusing vodka with pickles.
Copland and Mangual suggest straightforward policy reforms to protect well-intentioned individuals from unnecessary legal jeopardy and save scarce law enforcement resources for the prevention and prosecution of serious crimes.