Supreme Court ruling will have biggest impact on criminal case jurisdiction

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma, including a large chunk of Tulsa, is still tribal land. It’s a ruling that has a big impact on the state’s criminal justice system.

“For anybody that has an Indian card, a CDIB card, a certified degree of Indian blood,” Native American law attorney Robert Gifford told KFOR. “If they are within the Creek Nation, the state of Oklahoma had no jurisdiction over them.”

Right now, for tribe members, something small like a traffic ticket goes to tribal court and all felonies are heard in federal court.

Major felonies for non-members are also heard in federal court, but the state still has jurisdiction over misdemeanors.

The ruling could also potentially effect family law cases.

“The way the statute reads is very broad. It discusses children living within a reservation, those matters shall be heard within the tribal court,” Gifford said. “Right now, that reservation just got a whole lot bigger.”

Gifford says there’s tax issues to work out as well, because the State of Oklahoma can’t tax members on a reservation. That doesn’t mean you can or should stop paying your taxes.

“They should be proceeding forward as if nothing has happened,” Gifford said. “It’s always a good idea to plan for a contingency, but what they need to do is pretend like nothing happened at all.”

It will take time to figure everything out, but Gifford says the Moscogee has no plans to seize land or collect taxes.

“What they want to do is they want to coexist, they also want to have their sovereignty respected and protected,” Gifford said. “That’s what this whole case was about.”

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