On July 9, 2020, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of McGirt v Oklahoma. They determined that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation in Oklahoma had never been disestablished and, therefore, had exclusive jurisdiction to try crimes allegedly committed by Indians on its land.
They decided that Jimcy McGirt could not be tried for his crimes by the State of Oklahoma because he was a member of the Seminole Nation and the crimes took place on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation. His tribal membership and the location of the crimes meant that Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction. Instead, he would have to be tried in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s tribal court.
McGirt was originally put on trial in Oklahoma in 1996 for three counts of sexual abuse against a minor. He was convicted in Wagoner County in 1997 and sentenced to life without parole along with two sentences of 500 years each.
In April 2019, after having his appeal denied by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA), McGirt appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. He claimed that Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction to try him, an Indian, for the crimes committed on Indian territory. The Supreme Court agreed to take the case in December of 2019 and made their decision in July of 2020.
The charges in Oklahoma were dismissed. However, since his crimes fell under the Major Crimes Act of 1885, he was tried federally instead of tribally. On August 18, 2020, he was indicted by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma’s federal grand jury for three counts of sexual assault. In early November of 2020, he was found guilty on all three counts and sentenced to at least 90 years in federal prison with the possibility of fines up to $750,000.
Why is McGirt important?
The decision in McGirt v Oklahoma is important because it sets a precedent for alleged crimes committed by Indians on tribal land. While it originally applied only to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, it has since been extended to the rest of the Five Civilized Tribes, which are Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Seminole. Other tribes have also been included. This means that any crimes that an Indian allegedly commits on any of these lands can only be tried tribally and/or federally.
McGirt has also been expanded to include Indian victims. Even if a non-Indian commits an alleged crime on tribal land, McGirt applies if the victim was Indian. Originally, McGirt applied retroactively because of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, which meant that Oklahoma never had the jurisdiction to try Indians for crimes allegedly committed on Indian land.
Because of that, anyone who had been convicted of a crime in Oklahoma could file an appeal to have their conviction vacated if they were an Indian and the alleged crime was committed on tribal land. This led to a deluge of appeals that only picked up when the Indian victim addendum was added.
However, in August of 2020, the OCCA reversed their previous decision and decided instead that McGirt did not apply retroactively because it was a new law. This means there will be delays in responding to all the appeals that have been filed. However, this reversal could still be overturned. If you have already filed an appeal on the basis of McGirt for a crime committed prior to the McGirt decision, you should speak to a knowledgeable attorney at Wirth Law Office — Muskogee to determine your next steps.
If you’ve been charged with a crime in Oklahoma and believe you qualify to have the charges dropped due to McGirt, you can find out if you qualify by consulting with a defense attorney at Muskogee’s Wirth Law Office.
Who Qualifies Under McGirt?
There are three things that must be proven to show that a person qualifies under McGirt. One, the crime was committed on tribal land. Two, the defendant or the victim is a tribal member. Three, the defendant or the victim has some quantum of Indian blood.
Both misdemeanors and felonies that are dismissed in Oklahoma because of McGirt can be sent to tribal court. However, certain felonies require that the tribal court share jurisdiction with the federal government. Some felonies may even be handled exclusively in federal court.
Whether you’re facing tribal or federal court or hoping to get your charges dropped in Oklahoma, the Muskogee defense attorneys at Wirth Law Office can offer skilled representation. They’ve been handling McGirt cases since the beginning, so they understand how they work and know what to expect. For the best possible outcome for your situation, don’t wait any longer to contact Wirth Law Office.
The application of the McGirt v Oklahoma decision is constantly in flux. New laws that change and even nullify previous laws can affect your situation. It’s important that you keep an eye on our website for updates about McGirt’s application.
Free Consultation with a Muskogee Defense Attorney
The attorneys at Wirth Law Office — Muskogee can help you determine whether McGirt applies to your case. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, defense attorneys at Wirth Law Office can represent you in tribal court. If you’ve been charged with a felony, they can represent you in tribal court or, if necessary, federal court. Whether your cases stays tribal or goes federal, you need a skilled defense attorney on your side to fight for your rights and get you the best possible outcome. For a free consultation with a Muskogee defense attorney, call (918) 884-7774 or click “request a consultation.”