OKC Code Enforcers enter private property in desperate search for yard parking violations…

Oklahoma City code enforcers are entering private property to search for opportunities to write tickets according to neighbors in the city’s Linwood neighborhood.

Earlier this month, Erin Smith discovered a car she has parked in her own backyard was ticketed three times for “parking on an unpaved yard.” According to Oklahoma City, parking a car on a lawn is one of the first signs a neighborhood is going downhill and can affect property values, but in this case there is no clear yard to be violated.

Smith showed The Lost Ogle around her home on North Drexel and the driveway that she shared with her neighbors. Looking at a picture of her home, you may have missed her car, which is easy to do because you cannot see it from the road as you drive north on Drexel:

In fact, the only way to safely see any car is back there at all is if you go north and look back towards the property. Even then, it appears to be a parking area that is attached to multiple garages for the apartments next door. The only way to know the car is parked on gravel is to actually enter Smith’s private property for a closer inspection.

Here are a couple of photos:

Once in the backyard, the inspector found other vehicles parked on private property out of the view of the public. After getting close enough to see that some compressed gravel was not technically paved, they issued everyone a $100 ticket.

“When we can see a violation from the street we believe we have probable cause,” explained OKC Spokeswoman Kristy Yager. “We believe we entered the property lawfully.”

Smith is a lawyer and is not only representing herself, but also her neighbors. She says it is a money-making scheme for the city and neither her car nor the neighbors are devaluing the neighborhood. She is concerned the city is trying to bully people who can’t afford to fight.

“That really gets my goat,” Smith told TLO. “They must not have expected to ticket a lawyer.”

Smith found out, in Oklahoma City, you cannot just fight a ticket. OKC first requires you to pay the ticket, plus $35 in order to contest the charges. In her case she was forced to pay $405 in order to secure a court date.

“$405 just to avail myself of my constitutional right to a hearing,” Smith said.

The rationale, if someone decides not to show up to contest their ticket, the city doesn’t have to issue a warrant they just keep the ticket money plus the extra cash.

TLO asked Oklahoma City Courts Administrator LaShawn Thompson why anyone should have to pay to access the courts.

“It is not designed to penalize the people,” Thompson explained, “Because if you do win your case you do get your money back, all of it.”

Thompson said if you cannot afford the ticket and the “bond” fee a judge will determine if you are unable to pay and will issue an “OR,” or “own recognizance” bond which allows people to still seek their hearing without being asked to put up any cash.

Smith believes not only did the city violate her constitutional rights by conducting an illegal search on her private property, but they are also bullying people into just paying tickets. She plans to not only request a hearing, but hopefully a jury trial to further expose what she calls a money grab.

Phil Cross is an award-winning investigative journalist and is now a reporter for hire with an eye on Oklahoma’s government, crime and corruption. You can find Phil on Twitter @philsnews.

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26 Responses

  1. Good for Erin Smith. Here is to hoping she can get the courts to instruct the city that trespassing is not ok, nor is collecting fines prior to a hearing.

  2. The incredible Mayor Holt needs to work on getting this changed!

  3. Are they using Google maps aerial pics to see things you can’t see from the street? The way things are going, the next step may be to confiscate your car because if you’re parking on gravel in your backyard you must be some sort of crack-smokin’ ne’er-do-well.

    1. Or sending drones over.

  4. Aren’t there gravel parking spaces over at the paid-for parking area on NW 15th close to the Plaza District?
    Anyway, one problem that this or any other city faces is the increased rainwater run-off from all the paved streets, driveways, and lots, plus rooftops. Increased run-off means folding downstream, channelization of creek beds, etc. Gravel parking, if done right, is a good thing and should be encouraged by the city.

  5. Maybe its time for a class action suit against Code Enforcement for its many violations of the rights of people.

    1. I’ve had run-ins with code enforcement over my gardens at times. More than once the discussions have gotten unpleasant, and I have to admit to actively disliking one or two workers there. But also, those people have a hard job, and most of the time, they’re just trying to enforce what’s on the books. Nobody is in a good mood if you’re code enforcement.
      Aesthetics are a tricky thing for a city to stick its nose into.
      And, by the way, as to my last post, what does “folding downstream” mean? “Flooding”, maybe, but run-off does not increase folding at all.

  6. Meanwhile cars parked forever, shrouded in tarps, quietly degrade neighborhoods without violating the law.

    1. That is such a different scenario than that described herein.

  7. Just pay that ticket. I need a raise!

  8. Norman has that same b.s. policy for fighting tickets. It’s clearly designed to discourage people from fighting back, and it robs people without money from that option at all.

  9. There’s a state code allowing code enforcement officers of municipalities to enter backyards. Plus she was probably complained on by her neighbor. If anything she needs to go light a bag of shit on fire and leave it for the person that called in on her. Settle it the old fashion way. This case has no legs.

  10. Midwest City has the same Bull shit law and they also actively try to Actively enforce it. As i allways Say the theme for MWC should be “Where the FEES files high” not ” where the spirit flies high !”

  11. I don’t know the specifics around this case but from my experience, this kind of thing gets turned in by a neighbor with a bone to pick. The city is too busy to just go poking into someone’s back yard. If you dig deeper, you’ll probably find someone who lives next door who got twisted up about something and turned them in. Noise or renters who are loud gets the landlord into a pickle. Especially if the property is on the bubble of code.

    1. Sometimes neighborhoods get labeled as “action zones”, or something like that. Then the code officers can roam the neighborhood and write up things without anybody complaining. This happened in my neighborhood years ago, due to the actions of a very active lawyer who used to live here, who also used to let her very large, aggressive dogs run free. She’s since moved to a more upscale neighborhood. Her departure was roundly cheered.
      Most of my troubles with them involved “conversations” about what I could plant and where, and code enforcement labeling as “weeds” plants that one could buy at nurseries. However, I have called code enforcement myself on properties around here, especially the long-running meth house a couple of blocks from here. I call them in on them for anything I can think of.
      Overall, I have a very ambivalent attitude towards the code people, and I personally like some of the ones I’ve dealt with. I do have a problem with some of the citations I’ve seen them issue, like peeling paint. This neighborhood has a lot of poor folk, and house paint isn’t their first priority.

      1. Code doesn’t handle meth houses. That would be the police fucktard.

  12. This type of harassment is done in other parts of the city too. OKC PD trolls May, Penn, and Western between NW 150th and NW 192nd in a blatant attempt to ticket people they KNOW will pay the fines. There’s just no way to prove it, but the city intentionally lowered the speed limit (45 to 40) knowing people would now drive that slowly. They ticket during rush hour knowing full well that the tickets will get paid immediately from a wealthier section of the city. It’s sickening and unfortunately nothing can be done about it.

    1. Don’t speed. Problem solved.

      1. Bingo! I can remember drivers doing well over 55mph on those exact streets! Was more than happy to see OKCPD passing out tickets after lowering the speed limit. And for those that get caught speeding by OKCPD, congratulations you just a ticket from a police department that can’t even catch a cold..

  13. I mean the rules are the rules….people seem to know these rules and still cry about them. In my opinion, it’s a high on her horse lawyer who thinks she is above the law. Seems to be how most of them are. But I’m sure she will have a fun time in Court since she’s so great at you know, lawyer stuff and all. She should be confident she’ll win and get her money back……unless of course……she’s guilty? And as a lawyer, why is she crying about $405? Must not be getting much business these days…wonder why?

    1. I’m almost positive she dates that lawyer that got the Rogers County Courthouse in Claremore closed for fumigation when the bed bugs started hopping off of him!

  14. They had no PC… especialy when tou see the cities comment begin with ” we believe”…

    Camara v. Municipal Court

    Collins v. Virginia

  15. When I was a Village cop many years ago, one had the right to go to court to contest a ticket without posting, “court costs.” These days, you have to “pay” go have your day in court. All cities in the metro area do it. I hope this lawyer fights this all the way to the highest court and wins. It is about time!

  16. Obama era style of government red tape that even the blind can see.

    1. Yeah, it was the Obama-ites that wrote that book of code. It was the nest of secret Obama agents that decided to harass OKC with their awful socialistic code nonsense. Everyone knows that before Obama, city ordinances were completely fair and just, and then those lizard people got in charge and everything went to shit.
      You fucking idiot,….

  17. Even I say, “fuck the man.”

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