Tribal Courts Can’t Prosecute Felonies
Video Transcribed: Tribal courts can’t prosecute felonies. Well, that’s a lie. Hi, my name is Ryan Cannonie, I’m an attorney in Tahlequah with Wirth Law Office. And one thing I’ve heard, and I’ve actually heard this my whole life growing up in and around the Cherokee Nation, and even as a young attorney I heard it numerous times, was that tribal courts could not prosecute a felony offense.
And lots of people ask that lots of people talk about it. It’s kind of this urban rumor out there, or urban legend, I guess, in and around tribal, at least around the Cherokee Nation that I know of that is completely untrue.
So yes, the tribes can prosecute felonies and the Cherokee Nation does prosecute felonies. I’ve got several felony cases out at the tribe. I can speak from experience, they can do felony prosecutions. What this all kind of stems from is in the past, and we’re talking decades ago, there were a lot more restrictions on what the tribes could do felony-wise.
Their sentencing range was, I think only up to like a year, maybe something like that. But in the time since there’s been legislation and court decisions that have come out and they’ve set up a framework for how the tribes can actually prosecute felonies.
I think the max sentence you’re going to be looking at, at least in Cherokee Nation tribal court, is going to be nine years, and that’s for repeat offenders. There are some lower-year terms underneath that. Six years on some felonies, three years on some others, but you’re not looking at the same term of years that you would in a state system.
And so I think that’s where some of the confusion comes from, but yes, the tribes can prosecute felony cases. They can sentence you to years in, I don’t actually know where they’re going to be sentencing. I think that’s still being decided at this moment.
Technically, at least the Cherokees have agreements with lots of jails in Oklahoma, but they can’t have you there for more than a year. So when they start doing these sentences, now that they’re going to be taking on so many cases after all these court decisions, there’s still kind of some questions about a lot of things.
But one thing is housing inmates that are going to be for years, because the Cherokee Nation has its court system, has marshals, has probation officers. They don’t have their own prison or jails. So this is something that’s going to have to be updated in a video in the future.
But the main point here is, yes, if you’re charged with a felony in Cherokee nation you could be looking at years, maybe not as many as state or federal, but still years. So if you have questions about this, if you have concerns, if you are being recharged with a crime in the Cherokee Nation court system or Creek Nation, I’m licensed in Muskogee Creek as well, then please give us a call. For a quick and free consultation with a Tahlequah Criminal Defense Attorney call the Wirth Law Office – Tahlequah.