OK, since I live in Wyoming and am reasonably close to the Crow Reservation, I’m going to dispel some myths for people here.
1. You should NEVER assume that state law applies on a res. NEVER. The reservations are their own sovereign nations, and they are not bound to recognize state laws except where they agree to do so. Getting pulled over and whipping out a CCW issued by a state (whether MT or another state) when you’re on a back road or reservation property might not get you the results you want . . .
Good luck getting a written list of the state statutes and regulations to which they agree. NEVER assume your CCW is worth the paper or plastic on which it is printed when you’re within a res.
2. Almost all legal issues you might run into on a res will not be heard in any state court. You’ll be dealing with either the reservation court, the BIA or the FBI & DOJ. Some tribes will defer to the FBI/DOJ on big felonies (rape, murder, major arson, etc). Getting popped for having a handgun where you’re not supposed to is one the tribal police will likely handle, because it needs little in the way of forensics and evidence from labs.
3. NEVER assume you’ll have cell coverage on a res in the west. Many of these reservations are huge tracts of land, with mountainous features that create huge dead areas. In the Pryor area, most carriers don’t work. Been there, seen that. Verizon sorta-kinda does. AT&T is marginal, at best, and several other urban carriers are worthless.
There are huge areas of the west where most urban carriers (Spring, T-Mobile, etc) don’t work, AT&T is marginal and Verizon is your best bet, but is also marginal. Central Nevada, central Utah, southwest Wyoming, northeast Wyoming, north central New Mexico, eastern Colorado, eastern Idaho, central Montana, western Montana, and mountain areas in any/all of the above – will have large dead areas, depending on your carrier. Assuming that you (or someone stranded) will have cell service is a foolish bet. I’ll take that bet for even money when I see you driving an urban vehicle in any of the above areas.
4. When you’re on a res, behave yourself. Some reservations ban the importation of alcohol – don’t be caught with a six-pack. Don’t be smoking pot and getting drunk on a res if you don’t live there or have family that lives there. Some reservations are huge open range areas. This means their livestock are not fenced in – they must be fenced out of whatever area you want them kept out of. This means that you can run into horses, cows, sheep, goats, etc on a road with a posted 65 to 70 MPH speed limit. Hitting a cow at 55+ MPH is a bad idea, mmmmkay? It’s a lethal idea to hit a horse at 55+ MPH, even in a one-ton pickup. They tend to come up and over the hood in lethal manner. Hitting livestock at night is a much worse idea.
Now, if you hit livestock on a res, you’re going to have to pay for it. I don’t give a rat’s rear end what happened to your car. No one but you is going to help pay for what happened to your car in any open range area in the west, and this is doubly true on a res. When you see a sign that says “open range,” you’d better put down your Big Gulp, cell phone, etc and start paying attention.
If you hit livestock: You’re in another legal system than the state or federal law you’re used to. You’d better pay up, or otherwise they can make a much larger deal about the issue if they wish. Cows start at about $1K, and horses start at $3K and go up.
So, let’s sum up: If you get pulled over on a res, and you’re not an enrolled member of the tribe, here’s what to do:
1. Be polite.
2. Admit nothing.
3. Don’t go spouting law from “outside.”
4. If you need a lawyer, get one who is familiar with the tribal laws & regulations. I don’t care if you’re a lawyer who graduated at the top of Harvard/Yale law school class. Your knowledge is worth SFA on the res. You’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy.
If you’re packing a handgun, stay on the interstates through reservations. The law you’ll run into there will likely be the surrounding state highway patrol. If you’re going to get on the back roads inside a reservation, you need to learn the tribal law. Most of the tribes in the west have very different and very restrictive laws on carrying handguns, knives, etc. On the Crow res, I’ll pull out my carry piece and make sure it is either visible, or locked up.
Here’s the Crow Tribal laws pertaining to weapons:
Search for “8B-8-301″ and start reading. Then back up and read the rest of the codes. NB how minor the penalties are for rape, murder, etc. NB that the penalty is the same for murder as for rustling cattle.
Now, with respect to the perp in the original article: He’s a legal immigrant (according to DHS), and is from Worland, WY. Worland is a farming town of about 4500 people. The local press is notable for interviewing people who know the perp, and many of those people are putting distance between the perp and themselves. This is telling.