The Richmond Register

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January 26, 2014

The case of the frustrated property owner

RICHMOND — Hogan owned a little hideaway cabin in the woods, and each spring he’d sneak away to the cabin to do a little hunting.

One spring, however, he had worse luck than Little Red Riding Hood. While he didn’t meet up with the wolf, he did meet up with dastardly Dugan, who had taken up housekeeping in his cabin. What’s more, when Hogan came a-knocking, Dugan refused to open the door and let him in.

Frustrated, Hogan puffed, and he finally pushed down the door. Instead of entering the cabin, however, Hogan ended up in jail. Dugan had him arrested and charged with unlawful breaking and entering.

“This is as crazy as Alice in Wonderland,” Hogan told the judge. “First, I find someone living in my cabin, without my permission. When I force my way in, I’m arrested for breaking into my own property.”

“I don’t care if it was his property,” Dugan responded, equally upset. “So long as I was living in the cabin, no one had the right to bash in the front door. It was very disconcerting.”

If you were the judge, would you find Hogan guilty of breaking into his own cabin?

Here’s how the judge ruled: Yes. The judge noted that the law seeks to prevent fights, violence and other breaches of the peace. The judge concluded that, while an individual is permitted to recover his property, if he cannot do it peacefully he must resort to legal means.

Based on a 1917 Oklahoma Supreme Court decision.

Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.

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