McGirt Has Major Impact in Oklahoma
Video Transcribed: Why are there so many federal criminal cases going on right now in Oklahoma? My name’s Ted Hasse. I’m a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Oklahoma at Wirth Law Office. Want to talk today about what a lot of people are noticing is going on is we’ve got lots of federal criminal cases going on. People in the area understand probably the primary reason here has to do with McGirt v. Oklahoma. It’s a ruling from the Supreme Court that came as a surprise for a lot of people last year.
Essentially, the ruling is all about criminal jurisdiction, and it comes down to a question of whether or not much of eastern Oklahoma that’s been treated for the last hundred years as though it was no longer an Indian reservation country, Indian country under federal law by federal definition, Supreme Court came down in McGirt saying no, in fact, the Indian reservations were never disestablished by Congress.
Therefore, they were never disestablished. Therefore, much of eastern Oklahoma, including Tulsa, are all Indian country. Therefore, because it’s an Indian country, where the defendant or the alleged victim in a particular crime or an alleged course of criminal conduct … In those cases, there is no jurisdiction in the state, by the state, for state prosecution.
To make that more concrete, if something happens in Tulsa … Let’s say it’s a victimless crime. The defendant is a Native American tribal member, Cherokee, Creek, or of any of the many tribes in the United States. If that alleged offense occurred within the bounds of one of the traditional reservations, Muskogee Nation if you’re south of Admiral … North of that, I believe Cherokee.
Then the only folks that can bring a charge would be either the federal government or in some cases, the tribe, the tribe for which any reservation space is. So if it happened in Cherokee tribal country, no matter what your tribal affiliation, then in some cases, there’s the jurisdiction for Cherokee. If it happened in Muskogee Nation, then, so south of Admiral in Tulsa or throughout Okmulgee, Muskogee areas, that’s all jurisdiction potentially from Muskogee, Creek Nation or Muskogee Nation, or federal.
There are certain alleged criminal offenses for which the tribes do not have jurisdiction and the state doesn’t have jurisdiction if the defendant or an alleged victim is Native American, but only the federal government would have jurisdiction. Those would be crimes falling under the Major Crimes Act. I’ll talk about that more at length in another video. But it’s worth knowing, or the simplest version basically is major crimes, it’s what you would guess. It’s murder, rape, child offenses, these types of things.
What’s happening now is that since there’s been this major change with McGirt, an awful lot of cases that were previously handled in the state courts or cases that already have been handled, criminal prosecutions that have happened through county district attorneys, some of those cases are being overturned, and those cases are turning into federal cases.
Sometimes, there are issues of statutes of limitation. I’ll talk about that in a separate video. But kind of the key takeaway is a lot of these cases are going federal. A lot of cases that people might have guessed would have been otherwise … If they can’t go to the state, they would have gone to the tribe. Some of these cases are being picked up by the federal government, by the U.S. attorney’s office.
The most important thing to know is that if you’re facing federal criminal charges if you’ve got a federal case, you’re in the big leagues. It’s a big deal. You want to get good representation. You want to reach out to a lawyer or start talking to people early. You want to get in front of these things. Please feel free to give us a call if you need a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, or If you any have questions, call (918) 932-2800.