Tenth Circuit: Fed. Courts Have No Jurisdiction over Non-Indian, Victimless Crime in Indian Country

Here is the opinion in United States v. Langford.

All this despite language in the Oklahoma Constitution appearing to disclaim state jurisdiction over crimes like these:

Although the McBratney line of cases establishes that the states, not the federal government, possess exclusive jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of victimless crimes, the Oklahoma Constitution appears to disclaim any state jurisdiction over crimes committed in Indian country.  Article I, Section 3 of the Oklahoma Constitution provides: The people inhabiting the State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title in or to any unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian, tribe, or nation; and that until the title to any such public land shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the jurisdiction, disposal, and control of the United States. Notwithstanding the plain text, the Oklahoma courts have construed this provision “to disclaim jurisdiction over Indian lands only to the extent that the federal government claimed jurisdiction.”  Goforth v. State, 644 P.2d. 114, 116 (Okla. Crim. App. 1982) (citing Currey v. Corp. Comm’n, 617 P.2d 177 (Okla. 1979)).  As the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals observed in Goforth, to construe this provision otherwise would result in a jurisdictional vacuum in which neither the federal government (due to McBratney) nor Oklahoma could punish crimes committed by non-Indians against non-Indians in Indian country.  Consequently, the Oklahoma courts have asserted jurisdiction over crimes by non-Indians in Indian country.  See Goforth, 644 P.2d at 117.

Here are the briefs:

Langford Opening Brief

US Answer Brief (Langford)

Langford Reply

Lower Court Record

 

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