Montana Tribes Selected as Pilot Project for Prosecuting Domestic Violence Crimes
HELENA – The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana announces that the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation have been selected by the Department of Justice as a Pilot Project for implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Starting March 6, 2015, the Fort Peck tribal court can now exercise special criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes of domestic and dating violence, regardless of the defendant’s Indian or non-Indian status. Fort Peck is one of only five tribes nationwide to be selected for Pilot Project status.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office congratulates Fort Peck for its hard work in earning Pilot Project status,” said Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter. “This is a significant win for public safety and tribal sovereignty for the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes.” The tribes engaged in an extensive application process to ensure adequate safeguards are in place to fully protect defendants’ rights, such as the right to an attorney.
"From the beginning of the VAWA tribal working group, we wanted to see Fort Peck succeed in the pilot because it is a large rural reservation with a larger criminal case load,” said John Dossett, General Counsel for the National Congress of American Indians. “They have provided a very good model for other large tribes and it will increase justice and safety for those reservations. Hats off to Fort Peck."
Other qualifying tribes in Montana and throughout the country also have the opportunity to expand special jurisdiction over certain domestic and dating violence crimes when VAWA took full effect on Saturday. Nothing in VAWA changes the obligation of federal authorities to prosecute violent crime in Indian Country. For more information about VAWA and the Pilot Projects, go to: http://www.justice.gov/tribal.