Facing felony or misdemeanor charges on Indian territory or a reservation?

If you face prosecution for a crime in an Indian Territory, you will want to hire a reputable, experienced criminal defense attorney. People who believe that charges or punishments for crimes of this type are less severe quickly learn that they are mistaken.

Court of Appeals Ruling – State Prosecution of Crimes on Indian Lands

The Michigan Court of Appeals (COA) has recently issued an opinion regarding state prosecution of crimes on Indian lands. The cases of People v. Collins, COA number 300644, and People v. Mason, COA number 300645, both involve criminal drug offenses under a state statute, MCL 333.7401. Defendant Collins was charged with Delivery of a Controlled Substance, Methylphenidate (Ritalin), and defendant Mason was charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance, Marijuana.

After reviewing the cases, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the cases for reinstituting the charges against the defendants. In their opinion, the appeals court stated, “On the basis of opinions issued by the United States Supreme Court, which constitute binding precedent, along with persuasive precedent emanating from numerous state and lower federal courts, we hold that state courts in Michigan have jurisdiction relative to a criminal prosecution in which a non-Indian defendant committed a “victimless” offense on Indian lands or in Indian country.”

The same attorney represented both defendants.

The attorney filed motions to dismiss for lack of territorial jurisdiction in the circuit court. The circuit court granted the dismissals stating, “In conclusion, this Court can find no authority that gives the State Court jurisdiction for this matter. Since the Tribal Courts clearly do not have jurisdiction, it would necessarily follow that the Federal Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over these criminal prosecutions. It appears the Federal Government has never chosen to share its authority over these matters with the State of Michigan.

Jurisdictional issues concerning crimes occurring in Indian country are governed by federal, state, and tribal law. In the case of Duro v. Reina, 495 US 676, 680 n 1: 110 S Ct 2053; 109 L Ed 2d 693 (1990), the Court stated that for Indian country crimes involving only non-Indians, longstanding precedents of this Court held that state courts have exclusive jurisdiction. A great criminal defense attorney in Michigan is well-versed in State and Federal Laws.

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Can I be prosecuted for state crimes allegedly committed on Indian reservations?

When it comes to a felony or misdemeanor criminal prosecution, there is a complex separation of jurisdiction among the federal, state, and tribal governments. Federal law refers to the areas that federally recognized tribes control as “Indian country,” and these areas are under their sovereign jurisdiction. Treaties between the federal government and these federally recognized tribes address distinct or concurrent jurisdiction over legal matters. The division of authority among the institutions is not entirely apparent, and federal legislation only exacerbates the confusion.

There are twelve Indian tribes with federal recognition in Michigan. You might face prosecution under federal, state, or tribal laws depending on the crime the government alleges against you. Crimes with cross-jurisdiction exposure include assaultive crimes, theft, malicious destruction of property, hate crimes, and hunting and fishing offenses. It would be best if you had a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney lead you through the process and ensure a successful outcome if you are charged with any offense on an Indian reservation. Self-representation or representation by an appointed or general practice lawyer is a bad idea, especially if a Motion to Dismiss charges is appropriate because the court lacks the necessary jurisdiction to hear your case. You only get one chance to defend yourself against criminal accusations effectively. Mistakes may lead to unjustified and protracted incarceration, probation, and fines.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Decades of experience regarding state and federal criminal matters, including defending against the prosecution of crimes on Indian Lands

The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience defending against felony and misdemeanor accusations in the state and federal courts throughout Michigan. If you call us for a free consultation, we will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, and address your concerns. Our attorneys utilize a unique team approach that consistently results in exceptional outcomes for our clients. We will find a way to help you with state prosecution of crimes on Indian lands.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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