Saying that you own something when you do not, can be mere puffing of ego, but there are situations in which claiming to own something can be illegal. These are usually situations in which the assertion of ownership is being made on property that belongs to someone else for monetary gain. Here are two clear examples.
Pawnshop Transactions Require a Declaration of Ownership
In Oklahoma, a pawnshop dealer is required must obtain a written declaration of ownership from a person who is either selling or pawning personal property. The document states how long he or she has owned the property described in the transaction and gives the seller’s identifying information. This becomes part of the bill of sale or pawn ticket. This is to protect all parties involved against the resale of stolen goods. Okla. Stat. tit. 59 § 1515
The person making the declaration of ownership basically asserts that they are the legal owner of the personal property and are legally able to sell it or dispose of it. A seller or pledgor of any item to a pawnbroker who either uses false or altered identification, or who makes false declaration of ownership as related to the property can be found guilty of making a false declaration of ownership.
The crime is a felony in Oklahoma if the property is worth more than $1,000. It is punishable by either up to five years in prison or a jail term of up to a year. In addition, the court may impose a fine up of to $500. Okla. Stat. tit. 59 § 1512
However, if the property was obtained by robbery or burglary, the crime is punished as above regardless of the value of the property involved. Thus, if someone acquired a trumpet by means of a burglary and makes a false declaration of ownership, he or she can spend up to five years in prison for a trumpet worth $100.
There are defenses available to you. Many defenses are based in mistake. Say you are gifted with a piece of jewelry that was once stolen. The person who gifts it to you comes across it by honest means and has no knowledge of the prior theft. Neither do you. But it comes up as stolen when you try to pawn it. This is when you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you with your defense.
False Declaration of Ownership of a Vehicle
Another way this crime occurs sometimes is in the area of vehicles. Making a false representation of ownership of a vehicle in Oklahoma is against the law. This often comes up when you want to sell an old junker to a car crusher.
In Oklahoma, making a false declaration of ownership of a vehicle is defined as falsely declaring that you own a piece of property, such as a vehicle, sufficient to transfer title, ownership, sell, gift, or exchange it for money, goods, services, or other property.
Sales of Vehicles to a “Crusher”
When a car crusher purchases a vehicle from an owner, the crusher must establish that the purported owner has the right to sell the car. A certificate of title is one way to do this, but a statement or declaration of ownership is another.
The declaration must state that the vehicle is being purchased from the lawful owner; it must be accompanied by a bill of sale from the lawful owner including a statement that there are no outstanding liens on the vehicle and a statement that the vehicle has no other resale value other than as scrap. This must be accompanied by an ID. Okla. Stat. tit. 47 § 592.8
If you take a car to a crusher and falsely assert that it belongs to you or show a fake ID in order to falsely assert ownership, you could be convicted of a felony in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Making this assertion is punishable by up to five years in prison or a year in the county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 47 § 592.9
If the car is stolen, the crusher will most likely be required to turn the car back over to the police or the rightful owner. So, Oklahoma has also enacted a provision that mandates repayment to the crusher by the offender.
If the offender fails to repay the crusher the full amount received after being notified that the car was stolen, the offender can be subject to another misdemeanor charge. This is punishable by another six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 47 § 592.9
Making a false declaration of ownership can mean years in prison. Make sure that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
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