Indian justice

  • Updated: September 3, 2012 - 8:01 PM

The 1953 Public Law 280 shifted federal jurisdiction over offenses involving Indians in Indian Country to six states -- Alaska, California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and Wisconsin. Iowa and the Dakotas have since been added, along with seven others.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa is not subject to Public Law 280 because of unique treaty considerations. The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa on Nett Lake "retroceded" from state jurisdiction in 1973. So the feds, rather than the state, must prosecute offenses such as murder, robbery and assaults on these reservations.

Tribal criminal courts, where they exist, could only incarcerate offenders up to a year.

What it is now

The Tribal Law & Order Act, enacted in 2010, allows tribal criminal courts to impose sentences of up to three years per violation, or up to a maximum of nine years in a single case.

The act also lets tribal governments subject to Public Law 280 seek to have federal prosecutors assume "concurrent jurisdiction" with state authorities. Federal authorities say they are working out guidelines with state and tribal authorities to determine where cases should be tried.


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