McGirt Criminal Defense Attorney in Oklahoma
Since the McGirt v Oklahoma decision in 2020, the way in which the criminal legal system operates in Oklahoma has changed significantly. Because of this decision, Native Americans have had criminal jurisdiction and sovereignty restored to their land, allowing them to handle most criminal cases within Native American territory. Additionally, some Native Americans have had their criminal cases dismissed or convictions vacated due to the new jurisdiction established.
If you are a Native American that has been charged with a crime by a state court in Oklahoma, you may be entitled to get your case dismissed based on a lack of jurisdiction. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you get your case dismissed, and fight any charges that have been brought against you in a federal court.
At Cannon & Associates, we are dedicated to ensuring that all of our clients get justice and are afforded the highest protection of the law. Many Native Americans have felt mistreated by the criminal legal system in Oklahoma and received convictions for crimes committed within their native land. We want to ensure that your legal rights as a Native American are protected and that you get the opportunity for a fair trial.
Whether you are facing charges in a federal court or trying to get your state case dismissed, our lawyers want to be your fierce advocates and ensure that you get the best results in your case. Our law office is highly experienced in criminal appeals and defending client’s rights and has won many awards for our experience and dedication.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation with a McGirt criminal defense attorney at 405-591-3935.
The United States Supreme Court Decision in McGirt v Oklahoma
The McGirt v Oklahoma case was a ruling by the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in relation to whether the state courts have jurisdiction over tribal land. This case concerned a Native American individual, McGirt who was convicted in a state court of crimes committed on native land in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. McGirt appealed this case to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in 2019 on the basis that because the crimes were committed on Native land, Oklahoma courts should not have jurisdiction.
The appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals was denied and he appealed it to the United States Supreme Court. The SCOTUS decision determined that the state courts do not have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Native Americans on Native land. Because he was a tribal member of the Seminole Nation and he lived in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, his crimes could not be tried in a state court.
In this particular case, because McGirt had been charged and convicted of sex crimes against a minor, which fall under federal law the Major Crimes Act of 1885, he was later charged by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma’s federal grand jury. The federal courts convicted McGirt of sex crimes under federal law and sentenced him to time in prison. As such, it was established that a Native American individual could be charged with a federal crime under the Major Crimes Act in a federal court.
Subsequent Decision Limiting the Scope of McGirt
Originally, the McGirt decision established that alleged crimes committed on Native land by Native Americans or Non-Native Americans cannot be tried by state courts. This meant that even if a crime was committed by a non-Native on a tribe member within Native lands, they could not be prosecuted under Oklahoma law. The federal government retained jurisdiction to try crimes that were significantly serious, such as felony child abuse or murder, for example.
However, since the original ruling in McGirt, the courts have begun to limit the scope of this decision. In Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, SCOTUS ruled that a non-Native who commits a crime against a Native American can be tried for the crime in a state court. This ruling gives power back to the state to prosecute crimes against Indian Victims on federally recognized tribe lands.
The McGirt decision was also challenged in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, which ruled that the ruling cannot be applied retroactively and that convictions against Native Americans on Native land prior to the McGirt decision cannot be vacated. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in January 2022, making it significantly more difficult for people to file appeals for their convictions.
Significance of McGirt v Oklahoma
The significance of the McGirt v Oklahoma decision is major as it established that tribal lands and tribal members living within these lands should not be prosecuted by Oklahoma state criminal laws. The decision originally applied to Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation as it had not been disestablished by Congress and had exclusive jurisdiction for crimes committed on tribal land. However, it later extended to include all Five Civilized Tribes, including Choctaw, Muscogee, Seminole, Cherokee, and Chickasaw.
The McGirt decision significantly changed the way in which criminal law operates in Eastern Oklahoma, and it gave jurisdiction back to Native Americans for their land.
Jurisdiction For Tribal Territories
The primary significance of the McGirt decision is that Oklahoma state does not have the authority to prosecute crimes committed on Native lands by or on Native people. As such, misdemeanor or felony charges that are not specified within the Major Crimes Act can only be charged and dealt with by the Native American community. Although the original decision applied only to Muscogee (Creek) Nation, since then, the tribal land not subject to Oklahoma Court jurisdiction has significantly expanded, including almost all of the Eastern District of Oklahoma, such as Tulsa County.
Post Conviction Relief
Because the McGirt decision established that Oklahoma Courts never had Subject Matter Jurisdiction over crimes committed by or on Native Americans on tribal lands, any Native American that was previously convicted of a crime by a state court may be able to get their conviction vacated. This is because Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction for state convictions against Native Americans on Native land.
However, the ability to obtain post-conviction relief has become significantly more difficult since the 2022 Supreme Court decision which held that the law cannot be applied retroactively and that individuals cannot get their convictions vacated. Native Americans may still be entitled to get post-conviction relief if they filed an appeal prior to the latest Supreme Court decision.
Major Crimes Act and The Federal Court
The McGirt criminal case involved acts that are regarded as federal crimes under the Major Crimes Act. The court decided that Oklahoma state authorities do not have jurisdiction over tribal lands, as such it gave exclusive federal jurisdiction over major crimes such as murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, a felony under chapter 109A, felony assault, an assault against an individual who has not attained the age of 16 years, felony child abuse or neglect, and more.
As such, anyone who lives within tribal lands, whether of Native blood or not, can be charged in a federal court for any of the crimes listed. The federal court will usually only step in to charge an individual for a crime when it is sufficiently serious. If you are charged with a federal crime, however, the penalties for a conviction are usually much more severe than a misdemeanor conviction. As such, it is important that you have a skilled defense attorney by your side that can protect your rights in a federal court.
Do I Qualify Under McGirt v Oklahoma?
As noted above, the SCOTUS decision in 2022 to prevent McGirt from applying retroactively means that getting post-conviction relief for convictions by an Oklahoma Court prior to this decision will be quite difficult. However, if you believe you are entitled to post-conviction relief or want to try and get your state convictions/case dismissed, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. To qualify for McGirt, which means not having your case tried in a state court, and potentially applying for post-conviction relief or a dismissal of your charges or state conviction, you must satisfy the following requirements:
- The alleged crime occurred on tribal land
- The victim or person accused of the crime is a tribal member
- The victim or person accused of the crime has Native American blood
If you have been charged with a crime within tribal land by the Oklahoma Court or local police officers, it is important that you speak with an attorney. The state police do not have the jurisdiction to charge Native Americans with crimes they allegedly committed on their land, and doing so is a direct breach of McGirt. A lawyer can help ensure that you are not wrongfully charged and convicted by a state court within Oklahoma.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You
Whether you are facing federal criminal charges for a major crime allegedly committed on federal land, or if you are hoping to get your state case dismissed on the grounds of McGirt, it is important that you have a fierce lawyer by your side. The attorneys at Cannon & Associates are highly skilled at both federal jurisdiction cases and state case/conviction dismissals, and we have the expertise necessary to win your case.
If you are facing state charges for a crime however you qualify under the McGirt decision, you will need to petition the court to get your case dismissed on this basis. A criminal defense attorney can help you by negotiating first with the state prosecutor to try and get your charge voluntarily dismissed, which will prevent you from having to petition the court. In the event that the prosecution is adamant to press charges, an attorney will need to file a motion stating that the state does not have jurisdiction and that the charges should be dismissed.
When facing federal charges, it is highly important that you have a strong criminal defense attorney by your side. Native Americans can still be charged with federal crimes provided that they fall under the Major Crimes Act. Because of the seriousness of federal crimes, a conviction can result in severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences, fines, probation, and a permanent criminal record.
A criminal defense lawyer that has experience handling federal crimes cases is necessary to ensure the best outcome for your case. They will try to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution, carry out an investigation on the evidence in your case, and build a strong criminal defense on your behalf. They can file motions to the court, negotiate with the Judge and prosecutors, and ensure that your rights are protected at all stages of the case.
Contact a McGirt Criminal Defense Attorney in Oklahoma
The SCOTUS decision in McGirt was significant in many ways. Firstly, it returns jurisdiction back to Native Americans for crimes committed on their land. Secondly, it helped many individuals wrongfully convicted of crimes by the state get their convictions vacated or their cases dismissed. Thirdly, it allows individuals to get their state cases dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction.
If you believe that the state has wrongly brought charges against you for an alleged crime committed on tribal land, or if you are facing federal criminal charges as a Native American, it is important that you get help from an experienced criminal attorney. For many years, the rights of Native Americans were not given the full protection of the law in state and federal courts, and it is important to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you get a fair trial.
Here at Cannon & Associates, our team has over 30 years of experience in handling criminal defense cases. Our lawyers are highly experienced in federal criminal cases and state dismissals, and we will do everything in our power to get the best results for your case. We want to use our experience and expertise to be your fierce advocate and help you in any way that we can.
Call our law office today to schedule a free consultation at 405-591-3935.
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