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Native American casinos have complex jurisdictions

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2024 | Casino Crimes, Criminal Defense |

Native American casinos have become increasingly popular destinations for entertainment and gambling across the United States. These casinos, usually situated on tribal lands, offer a variety of games, from slot machines to poker tables. While they provide fun and excitement for visitors, they also present unique legal situations due to their location and governance by tribal law in conjunction with federal and state regulations. Despite stringent security measures, casinos can be a magnet for certain criminal activities.

Frequent causes for criminal charges in tribal casinos

Tribal police and security often charge patrons with one or more of the following:

  • Theft: Visitors may attempt to steal chips, money, or property from the casino or other patrons, leading to theft charges.
  • Assault: Disputes or altercations can escalate into physical confrontations, resulting in assault charges for those involved.
  • Cheating at Play: Players who try to manipulate games for their advantage, such as by card counting or using prohibited devices, can face cheating charges.
  • Public intoxication: Casinos often serve alcohol, and excessive consumption can lead to charges of public intoxication if a patron becomes disruptive.
  • Drug possession: Since casinos have strict no-drug policies, individuals found in possession of illegal substances on the premises can be charged.
  • Fraud: Engaging in fraudulent activities, like using fake IDs or counterfeit money, can result in fraud charges against the perpetrator.
  • Trespassing: After being banned from the property for previous infractions, returning to the casino can lead to a trespassing charge.

Determining jurisdiction

In Oklahoma, most criminal jurisdiction matters on tribal lands are handled by either the tribal courts or federal courts, depending on the nature of the crime and the parties involved. The state can have jurisdiction in certain situations, but this jurisdiction involves specific legal agreements or legislation. The relationship between tribal, federal, and state law enforcement and courts can be quite complex in Oklahoma, especially following the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which reaffirmed the reservation status of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and potentially affected the jurisdictional boundaries for other tribes in the state.

Planning a legal defense is key

Due to the complex nature of legal charges on tribal lands, visitors need to understand the laws of the tribal territory, as well as the policies of the casino itself. Failure to do so can lead to legal consequences that extend well beyond a night of gambling. Those with questions can speak with an attorney with experience dealing with this unique mix of jurisdictions.