Tulsa Attorney BlogWhat Are Strict Liability Laws?

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Video Transcribed: This is Brian Jackson, I am an attorney in Tulsa. I work at Wirth Law Office in Oklahoma. What is strict liability? Normally, when you’re talking about any kind of a criminal statute, there is some kind of an intent element. I’ll give you an example, larceny. Larceny is a fancy legal word for theft. Larceny in Oklahoma is defined as the unlawful taking and carrying away of the personal property of another with the intent to permanently deprive or steal.

There’s an intent element there. The intent is you take the property and carry it away with the intent that you’re going to keep it. You’re going to keep it yourself and keep it away from its rightful owner. That’s intent. With strict liability, there is no intent.

An example of a strict liability statute, a lot of speed limit statutes is strict liability. There is no intent, as in you don’t have to intend to be going over the speed limit or anything like that. It just basically says, “If you above this speed in your car, regardless of how you came to be going that fast, you’re guilty.”

I mean, that’s a traffic infraction. But there are some other areas of law that are more serious, where you’re talking about strict liability. One example is statutory rape.

Under Oklahoma law, if you have a sexual encounter with somebody under the age of 16, even if you had no reason to know that person was under the age of 16, you are still liable for the rape. It doesn’t matter. A strict liability crime is basically if you commit the act, you’re screwed if the state can prove the fact beyond a reasonable doubt.

So essentially, the excuse of, “Well, I really didn’t know that, or I wasn’t aware, or it was an accident,” is out the window. It doesn’t matter. You commit the act, you’re screwed. That’s what strict liability is.

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