Tribe amends criminal statute of limitations

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tribal council members voted Feb. 12 to amend the statute of limitations for certain major crimes within the tribe’s criminal code.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma continues to amend its criminal codes following an increase of criminal prosecutions brought on by the McGirt decision.

Choctaw Nation Tribal Councilors unanimously voted Feb. 12 to pass amendments to the Choctaw Nation Criminal Procedure Code relating to the statute of limitations for certain major crimes.

“We’re staying on top of things,” said Tribal Council Speaker Thomas Williston after the vote. “We owe a lot to our legal team.”

Brian Danker, senior executive officer for legal and compliance for the Choctaw Nation, said the amendments mimic those of the state of Oklahoma.

“The amendments remove any time limitations on the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma bringing a murder prosecution,” Danker said. “In addition, the amendment generally provides a three-year limit on CNO misdemeanor prosecutions and a five-year limit on felonies.”

In the state of Oklahoma, the statute of limitations differs depending on the type of felony with prosecution for misdemeanors to begin within three years from when the alleged crime occurred.

Additional amendments give the tribe the ability to prosecute certain childhood abuses, including child trafficking and child sexual abuse until the victim’s 45th birthday or, at least, 12 after the victim reaches the age of eighteen.

“The changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure bring CNO in line with the state of Oklahoma’s 2021 amendments to Oklahoma’s statute of limitations for murder and first- and second-degree manslaughter,” Danker said.

Oklahoma lawmakers amended state law in 2021 to have “no limitation of the time within which a prosecution for murder must be commenced. Such prosecution may be commenced at any time after the death of the person killed.”

For manslaughter, the state amended the law stating prosecutions for first-and second-degree manslaughter must begin within 10 years from the date the crime is reported to a law enforcement agency.

“Likewise, the amendment to the child abuse statute of limitations harmonizes CNO’s limits with those of the state of Oklahoma,” Danker said.

Also, during the Feb. 12 meeting, councilors approved an application for funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for attorney fees and litigation support for the fiscal year 2022.

The BIA states any funds received will provide “the necessary support for tribes to protect their tribal trust resources or treaty rights in cases where the federal government cannot represent Indian interests for various reasons, including conflicts of interest.”

“Any funds awarded will be used for attorney fees and private council used to protect tribal resources and treaty rights,” a representee for the tribe told councilors.

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