in a state of collision or entanglement:
a ship with its shrouds afoul.
run / come / fall afoul of,

to become entangled with:
the boat ran afoul of the seaweed.
to come into conflict with:
the business had fallen afoul of the new government regulations.

historical examples

and even when the feller got afoul of him, the chances are the old land-pirut would steal the brick.
the skipper and the skipped holman day

what infernal notion is afoul of you, orne, grabbing for my money before you report?
when egypt went broke holman day

yes, marm; but ’tain’t there now—the cattle got afoul of the pillar of salt one day, and licked it all up!
the humors of falconbridge jonathan f. kelley

in youth he was so pious, that young and old were afraid to say afoul word in his presence.
the memoirs of louis xiv., his court and the regency, complete duc de saint-simon

the consequence of this was that we no sooner came abreast of the reef in that locality than we got afoul of it.
punchinello, vol. 1, no. 19, august 6, 1870 various

if, like me, you can’t pole a punt its length without running into a mud-bank or afoul of the bushes, then send for fin.
the underdog f. hopkinson smith

labe was sorry, too, i don’t doubt, when his bedtime went by and he kept runnin’ afoul of one of your mistakes after another.
the portygee joseph crosby lincoln

of course, every man was on his feet in a second, thinking we were all but afoul of another vessel.
the atlantic monthly , volume 2, no. 14, december 1858 various

its reluctance was quite uncanny until e. van tenner observed that in some way the pencil had got afoul of the pocket flap.
the beggar’s purse samuel hopkins adams

he must have got afoul of the enemy’s horse, and been obliged to beat it off.
the brigade commander j. w. deforest

adverb, adjective (postpositive)
(usually foll by of) in or into a state of difficulty, confusion, or conflict (with)
(often foll by of) in or into an entanglement or collision (with) (often in the phrase run afoul of): a yacht with its sails afoul, the boat ran afoul of a steamer

“entangled,” 1809, originally nautical, now mainly in phrase to run afoul of; from a- (1) + foul.

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