I Fought the Law

And I won. For the most part. Thanks to all who wrote and commented with advice. Here’s what happened.

As I wrote earlier in the week, I had a little misunderstanding with the game wardens while home for Christmas. The (optional) court date they gave me was January 30th, but I fly back to Scotland on the 6th.

I was planning on just getting an attorney and letting him deal with it, but I also wanted to be able to tell my story. So, my son and I first went to the court clerk, where the game warden had just brought the tickets in. She was very friendly, and asked me what happened. I told her, and she was appalled. She told me that she and her husband had a similar run-in when they were checking on some of their cows, and she knew how over-zealous some of those game wardens can be. She finished filing the charges, and sent me over to the district judge’s office.

I talked to the judge’s secretary. She also commented about this new crop of game wardens, and said that they had been having issues with some of the citations they had written. She made a comment about them needed to exercise a bit of common sense when dealing with people. She stuck her head in, asked if the judge could talk to me, and he said that he could.

The ticket had my Montana address on it, and at first he didn’t realize I was from the area. He said “Son, you had a gun and a spotlight in a vehicle. Here in southeastern Oklahoma, that’s a problem. What happened?” I told him who I was, and where the incident happened. (He has property not far from there.) I could see his demeanor change as I told my story. He said “Wait a second. You were on your own property?” I told him we were. He said “And they came all the way down to the house?” (The house is well off the road). He wasn’t happy. He then asked about Scotland, and if another court date would work. I told him that we were leaving this weekend. He said “Let me go and talk to the District Attorney.”

So, he went upstairs to the DA’s office for about 10 minutes. My son and I sat out in the hall, and I told him that this was a good sign. So far, nobody had been sympathetic to the game wardens’ actions. After a bit, the judge came out and said the DA wanted to see me. I went in and talked to him about my options. Again, he was sympathetic. He said “Look, I know that farmers around here need to get out and check on fences, cows, etc. They are almost always going to have a gun in their possession. So what they cited you for could be cited on private property all the time. In fact, I could have been cited for this before.” I was thinking “This is starting to sound pretty good.” He then said “But, the game wardens are going to want to contest this in court. I would rather not waste the court’s time on this, and I know that you aren’t going to be here after this week.”

He then handed me a copy of the game warden’s report, and asked if it looked like the facts were correct. I read it over, and other than one statement, it was written up correctly. That one statement was “Mr. Rapier said that they weren’t deer hunting, but were trying to spot raccoons.” I don’t know whether he meant to say that I actually said that we weren’t deer hunting (the word deer was never mentioned by me or the game warder) or whether he was trying to convey that information in his report. But I wanted to clarify that I was never questioned about whether I was deer hunting.

The mystery of how they arrived so quickly was also solved. They said we were spotted by an airplane flying directly overhead (looking for “illegal hunting activity”), and that it was called in at 20:48. They were very close by, and when it was called in they were pulling down the driveway 10 minutes later.

The DA said “Look, I don’t want to prosecute this. But I would like to make some kind of deal that satisfies everyone.” He turned to his computer and did some research. He said “How does this sound. I can give you a pair of options. First, we can try to work out a court date, get the game wardens in here, and contest the charges in court.” He told me that that face value of all of the 3 fines was actually about $800 EACH. He said “That’s one option. But I would rather do this. I will dismiss the first two charges – Hunting from a motor vehicle and spotlighting in exchange for a no contest plea and the minimum fine for hunting without a license. I will order return of the gun and light.”

We discussed this for a bit. When the game wardens showed up, I had a predator call in my pocket. When we had been out target practicing earlier, we had planned on calling up some coyotes. They had been making a lot of noise the past few nights. While we never used the call, we were walking around in the woods with a gun and would have shot a coyote had we seen one. That means that technically, we were hunting earlier in the day for coyotes (again, on private property). However, we weren’t hunting when the game wardens cited me.

I asked about the seriousness of the charge. In Oklahoma, here is the classification of the charge:

“Non-serious offenses” offenses which are not recorded in criminal history records, adapted from the list of FBI non-serious offenses.

It is essentially equivalent to a speeding ticket. So my options were to take this deal, or hire a lawyer and send him in to tell my side of the story without me being there (risky, in my opinion). So, I took the deal, paid a $200 fine plus $100 in court costs, and was done with it.

One more interesting thing happened when I was getting my Dad’s gun and light back. They let me look around the evidence locker. They had a bunch of automatic weapons that they had confiscated from a meth lab. There must have been a total of about 100 guns in there. Pretty cool. And once again, I got a sympathetic view from the deputy who released my gun. He apologized over the whole thing.

All in all, not a terrible way to end the episode. It was still a bad deal, but it could have turned out a lot worse.

11 thoughts on “I Fought the Law”

  1. Robert – that is good news. All things considered, this was probably the best outcome.

    Methampetamine labs are a serious problem in rural Oklahoma. Since you left both OK & TX have restricted OTC sales of pseudophedrine in an attempt to slow down production. Frequently local sheriffs are outgunned.

  2. I’m really glad things worked out well for you, and more-so that I think your son got to see that while the system can be dysfunctional sometimes, it does work and you can get justice if you stick to your guns (er, you know what I mean), and do the right thing.

    I am also more sympathetic to the game wardens after reading this post and can see why they might’ve been a little jumpy. When I was a kid you didn’t have game wardens happening upon meth labs in the middle of the night. Those guys must really wonder what they are going up against when they approach people these days.

    I’m sorry you had to pay a citation at all, I think it’s still BS, but it’s a lot better than the original situation. Happy new year, and have a safe trip back to Scotland tomorrow!

  3. Wild stuff. Glad to hear that the episode ended on a positive note. Hope you have a safe journey back to the Gray city 😉

  4. I’m from Australia and I’m struggling to understand this comment:

    There must have been a total of about 100 guns in there. Pretty cool.

    Are you saying that the sight of all this machinery of death was somehow ‘cool’, or was it cool that the cops had found it before anyone had a chance to use it?

    Please note that in Australia we assume all Americans are gun-crazed lunatics. The idea that you’d show a child how to shoot and hunt is pretty foreign to most Aussies, even rural Aussies. Ture, we don’t have coyotes or bears to worry about but we do have foxes and wild dogs.

  5. Robert:

    IMO the big lesson from several aspects of this is that we urgently need to get back to a strong sense of local community and pick up the responsibility that goes with being a community member with everybody watching out for everyone else. It seems to me that for many reasons communities without rich networks of multiple connections between members are increasingly dysfunctional and ultimately unsustainable.

    When I was growing up among the rattlesnakes, sage brush and cheat grass, the game warden was a local guy who knew all and was known by all. He knew what was whose and who was out of place. As did everyone else, he knew who was poaching deer out of desperation to put food in front of their kids (no “safety net” for the poor in those days) vs. who was doing it for the dark joy of killing something. As long as someone in the first group didn’t do it blatantly near a public road, on someone else’s property or brag it up, the other group got the big tickets.

    A richly networked community also knows when someone who doesn’t belong is out getting into major mischief, such as making meth, and the word gets around that this is not a good place to go do such things. Otherwise, if enough members of a community ignore enough things, leaving it all up to “big brother”, bad things start happening on both sides of the badge. Someone has to fill the “big brother” jobs and take all the baggage that comes with them. They can never afford to drive toward the sound of gunfire thinking it is a land owner shooting coyotes without a license when it is a paranoic high on meth shooting anything that moves. Because switching off that mindset so hard, many carrying guns in such roles limit their social networks mostly to the fraternity.

    The big question is how do we foster and maintain resilient, sustainable communities?

    I’m glad to see that this played out OK for you.


  6. I’m from the US, and I’m with the guy from Australia. A bunch of illegal automatic weapons from a meth lab – cool?

    The gun situation in the US is a disgrace. Tough to put the genie back in the bottle now, but I wish we could.

  7. I may be reading it wrong, but I read “pretty cool” as pretty cool they let him look around the evidence locker. RR has never come across to me as a gun fanatic. Up to now, I don’t recall him ever mentioning guns, and I read the blog every day.


  8. Yes, you need a permit to hunt coyotes in Oklahoma. Or to fish, even on your own property.

    Okie [not from Muskogee]

  9. Robert:
    Glad you got a reasonable (somewhat) outcome, unfortunately it seems that the typical approach that game wardens use these days is to assume you’ve comitted a crime until you can prove otherwise.
    I agree with anyonomous comments regarding the need to rebuilt the neighborhoods we once had, I recently bought property in rural KY, and the first thing I did was make an overture with my closest neighbor, gave him permission to take his grandson deer hunting, (the lad got a 7 point) and offered him 20 acres of free hay if he wanted to roll it up for his cows. In return I now have the makings of a friendship and someone watching over the place in my absence. I also spoke to the sheriff deputy and told him to go back in and poke around anytime he liked.
    As for the confiscated gun collection I guess it just goes to show what the cops are up against these days.

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