Jurisdiction and Law Enforcement Overview

GavelJurisdiction and Law Enforcement

Updated December 2011

Criminal jurisdiction and law enforcement issues create an immense opportunity for state-tribal cooperation.  Criminal jurisdiction on tribal lands can be a confusing area of law because it can involve three different jurisdictions (tribal, federal and state) and must take into account additional factors such as the identity of the perpetrator, the identity of the victim, the specific type of crime committed and the locality of the crime.

The current jurisdictional framework has produced situations in which no single government has the authority to exercise full jurisdiction, absent some type of cooperative agreement.  The confusion and possible jurisdictional gaps have contributed to the disproportionately high crime rates and under-prosecution of crimes, which negatively affect Native and non-Native citizens alike.

Cooperation between the states and tribes can address some of the uncertainty surrounding cross-jurisdictional issues. 

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