Effectiveness of the Office for Victims of Crime Tribal Victim Assistance Program
Audit Report 06-08
Office of the Inspector General
There are numerous jurisdictional complexities and limitations in Indian Country that contribute to the overwhelming difficulties in any effort to improve the relationship between the tribal governments and the federal government. For example, crimes committed in Indian Country could fall under the jurisdiction of the federal, state, or tribal governments, depending on the identity of the victim and suspect, (i.e., Indian or non-Indian), the seriousness of the offense, and the state in which the offense was committed. There are three federal statutes that affect criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country, including:
The first federal code provision relating to crimes committed in Indian Country is 18 U.S.C. § 1152. Under this federal code provision, all crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian Country are subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction regardless of the seriousness of the offense.
Jurisdiction in Indian Country is further complicated by the definition of what constitutes Indian Country. Indian Country, as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 1151, includes:
The second federal code provision regarding jurisdiction over crimes committed in Indian Country is 18 U.S.C. § 1153. Pursuant to this federal code provision, crimes committed in Indian Country, with the exception of crimes committed in the states granted jurisdiction under the provision, are subject to federal jurisdiction when the offense is committed by, or against, a Native American. The crimes subject to federal jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 1153, include: murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, maiming, incest, assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, an assault against an individual who has not attained the age of 16 years, arson, burglary, and robbery.
Additionally, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1153, all non-major crimes (those not listed in 18 U.S.C. § 1153) committed by Indians against other Indians within Indian Country, are subject to the jurisdiction of tribal courts. Further, all crimes committed by non-Indians against other non-Indians, in Indian Country, are subject to prosecution under state law. Table 15 illustrates jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed in states not covered by 18 U.S.C. § 1162.
Finally, the third federal code provision concerning Indian Country jurisdiction is 18 U.S.C. § 1162. Under this federal code provision, certain states were granted jurisdiction over crimes committed in all or part of Indian Country within the state, except those specifically designed as matters of jurisdiction. Table 16 illustrates those states granted jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1162.
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