Woman Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for Selling $31 of Marijuana Lands Back in Jail for Court Fees

Fines continued to pile up for almost a decade.


Patricia Spottedcrow found herself in a jail cell last week. It was a familiar place for her: In 2010, she was sentenced to 12 years in prison and $2,740 in fines for selling $31 worth of marijuana to an undercover police informant. That sparked an outcry, especially since she was a first-time offender, and the public outrage led to her early release two years later.

Yet the fines were not dismissed, and late fees mounted with each missed payment. On September 9, the Oklahoma City police arrested her, with the state ordering that Spottedcrow be locked up until she could furnish $1,139.90 of the $3,569.76 she still owed. Meanwhile, she was hit with yet more fines with the new arrest, and they would accrue while she was in jail.

After her case was publicized, some strangers donated enough funds to wipe her slate clean. As she walked out of jail on September 11, she was completely free for the first time in nearly a decade.

The mother of six has been constantly at the mercy of the criminal justice system since her arrest. In 2017 she told the Tulsa World that she was living in an Oklahoma City motel, unable to find permanent housing. Her conviction also made it difficult to find work, so she relied on her husband's pay as an electrician. He has since passed away.

And in 2018—eight years after pleading guilty—her bond was revoked after she failed to report to a probation officer and admitted to drinking a beer. Her debt continued to climb, though she attempted to pay some of it off at least every other month. But that made no difference: The $3,600 she owed as of last week had grown from the $2,740 she owed when she first reported to prison years ago.

Her mother, Delita Starr, was also arrested in connection with the incident. Another first-time offender, she received a 30-year suspended prison sentence in 2010—and was handed $8,600 in fines.

Their experience is alarming but unsurprising. Oklahoma incarcerates women at the highest rate in the country, and it has the second-highest overall incarceration rate.

"It was a way of life for them," said former Kingfisher County Associate District Judge Susie Pritchett in 2011, who oversaw the case. "Considering these circumstances, I thought it was lenient. By not putting the grandmother in prison, she is able to help take care of the children."

NEXT: How Do You Lose Money Dealing Marijuana? Be a Government Agency.

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  1. Must be something more to the story. 12 years for $31 pot sell? Does not add up.

    1. Lazily glancing at the linked article, maybe the “in front of children” is some kind of enhancement, and maybe the 12 years is statutory max.

    2. Must be something more to the story.


      1. Spottedcrow.

    3. Its Oklahoma.

    4. Oklahoma is pretty awful on pot. Remember the Kansas couple and their grandson who were terrorized by the cops a few years ago? They got a no knock warrant in the basis that a cop in a neighboring Oklahoma town witnesses the grandfather and his high school age grandson enter a hydroponics store and walk out after having purchased unknown items. The cop ten forwarded this information to the grandfather’s jurisdiction after running their license plate. Turns out that the purchase was related to a school science project. Not a grow operation.

      But this is what Oklahoma cops do, stake out hydroponic stores and presume all customers are growing marijuana.

  2. It’s not about justice.
    It’s about making money for the government.
    Where have you been?

  3. Never go to Oklahoma. Fact.

    1. I lived there for 2 years as a kid. Fortunately, I was completely oblivious back then.

      1. i did time there every summer. love my relatives. hate the Highway Patrol.

    2. We have medical cannabis now and shops popping up all over the place.

  4. That is part of the problem with all of these nonsense laws. It’s not just that people are punished for conduct that shouldn’t even be crimes. It’s that in so doing, they are put into a cycle that it’s difficult to escape from.

    1. Good point, it really adds insult to injury.

    2. Iron law: Foreseeable consequences are not unintended. Whenever a liberal wants to push this kind of nanny statism, whether for drugs, guns or seatbelt laws, make clear that they are doing nothing less than begging the government to put more minorities in cages. It’s really that simple.

      1. It’s not just liberals who are nanny-staters, but yes, generally.

        But my point goes even beyond that. It’s not just about putting people in cages. Even if no one actually is put in a cage, putting someone through the process, dragging them away from their daily life, for bullshit charges on bullshit crimes, also has a measurable amount of harm associated with it.

  5. More proof that debtor’s prisons are still alive, assuming the entity you ‘owe’ money to happens to be the government.

    1. And the government gets more and more desperate for money year by year as it continues to pile up debt and financial obligations they can’t hope to meet. It’s almost as if they need an intervention to get them to admit they’re hopelessly addicted and they need help.

      1. And yet they somehow manage to find several thousand dollars a month to keep people like Spottedcrow in jail.

  6. This system is dying….criminals that stole billions can freely move thanks to corrupt lawyers…while as little as $31 offense is caught up.

  7. It’s not just liberals who are nanny-staters, but yes, generally. Judi QQ

  8. Wait. I thought all those evil drug dealers were rolling in money. That’s why we had to get rid of large denomination bills and all that.
    So was Grandma holding out, or what?
    Lately it seems the Reason stories leave out a lot of detail.

  9. These Okie cops made a rare mistake, but we need to move on. We’re at war with drugs, and Spottedcrow is an unavoidable casualty of war. LEOs – heroes just like these guys – are exactly the sort of constitutional conservatives who will refuse to enforce unconstitutional laws. They will come to our rescue when the left comes for the guns!

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