Tulsa Attorney BlogHow Reauthorization of VAWA Affects Tribal Jurisdiction in Oklahoma

McGirt Leads To Major Oklahoma Changes

Video Transcribed: How the reauthorization of VAWA affects tribal jurisdiction in Oklahoma. I’m Oklahoma Lawyer James Wirth and I’m talking about the newly past act of VAWA that has been updated and reauthorized and how it affects Oklahoma. And this all has to do with McGirt.

The McGirt decision from the United States Supreme Court back in July of 2020 found the Muskogee Creek Nation was never disestablished. And that was since also ruled the same way for the five tribes and then one additional tribe. So the end result is most of Northeast Oklahoma’s considered to be Indian reservation land.

And under that being Indian reservation land the state of Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by or against Native Americans, which means that those offenses committed by or against native Americans go either to tribal court or into federal court depending on the circumstances.

attorney in OklahomaBut there is this area where the tribal court has limited jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indians even if the crimes they commit are against Indians. So generally speaking, the tribal courts do not have any authority to prosecute, no jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indians, but under the prior version of VAWA they did in limited circumstances related to domestic violence. In the reauthorization, they have expanded that.

And specifically what it provides is that it allows tribes to prosecute non-native people for crimes that include sexual violence, child abuse, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal police officers. The tribal courts did not have the authority to prosecute any of those before under prior versions of VAWA.

They could only do domestic violence related to that. It has now been expanded. And of course, this is only in the case where the victims are Native American, but that expands tribal jurisdiction to prosecute non-natives for these limited crimes. And that is one reason why some of the tribes are celebrating this reauthorization.

Now VAWA, what is that? That is the Violence Against Women Act. It was originally passed in 1994. It provides federal grants for the prosecution of domestic violence against women is the primary purpose of that an attempt to try to reduce or stop or take domestic violence more seriously.

It has to be renewed periodically, and it has been renewed over the years. Originally passed in ’94, renewed in 2000, 2015, 2013, and now again in 2022. The big difference this year is it also expanded tribal jurisdiction to prosecute non-natives when it was renewed this year.

If you’ve got any questions about tribal jurisdiction, McGirt, or criminal cases in Oklahoma you’re going to want to talk to an attorney specifically confidentially about your circumstances. To get that scheduled with somebody at my office you can go online to makelaweasy.com.

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