Administration of Department of Justice Grants Awarded to
Native American and Alaska Native Tribal Governments

Audit Report 05-18
March 2005
Office of the Inspector General


Appendix VI


Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country


As stated previously, there are numerous jurisdictional complexities and limitations in Indian Country, which contribute to the overwhelming difficulties in any effort to improve the relationship between 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:

  • Title 18, Chapter 53, Section 1152 Law governing (18 USC 1152).

  • Title 18, Chapter 53, Section 1153 Offenses committed within Indian Country (18 USC 1153);

  • Title 18, Chapter 53, Section 1162 State jurisdiction over offenses committed by or against Indians in Indian Country (18 USC 1162); and

The first federal code provision relating to crimes committed in Indian Country is 18 USC 1152. Under 18 USC 1152, 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 USC 1151, includes:

  • all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the federal government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, and, including rights-of-way running through the reservation;

  • all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States whether within the original or subsequently acquired territory thereof, and whether within or without the limits of a state; and

  • all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished, including rights-of-way running through the same.

The second federal code provision regarding jurisdiction over crimes committed in Indian Country is 18 USC 1153. Pursuant to 18 USC 1153, crimes committed in Indian Country, with the exception of crimes committed in the states granted jurisdiction under 18 USC 1162, are subject to federal jurisdiction when the offense is committed by, or against, a Native American. The crimes subject to federal jurisdiction under 18 USC 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 USC 1153, all non-major crimes (those not listed in 18 USC 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 20 illustrates jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed in states not covered by 18 USC 1162.

TABLE 20: CRIMINAL JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES COMMITTED IN
INDIAN COUNTRY

SUSPECT IDENTITYVICTIM IDENTITYTYPE OF OFFENSEJURISDICTION
IndianIndian or Non-IndianMajor CrimesFederal
IndianIndian or Non-IndianNon-major CrimesTribal
Non-IndianIndianAny OffenseFederal
Non-IndianNon-IndianAny OffenseState

Source: 18 USC § 1152 and 18 USC § 1153.

Finally, the third federal code provision concerning Indian Country jurisdiction is 18 USC 1162. Under 18 USC 1162, 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 21 illustrates those states granted jurisdiction pursuant to 18 USC 1162.

TABLE 21: STATES GRANTED JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES
COMMITTED IN INDIAN COUNTRY UNDER 18 USC § 1162

STATEINDIAN COUNTRY AFFECTED
AlaskaAll Indian Country within the state, except that on Annette Islands; the Metlakatla Indian community may exercise jurisdiction over offenses committed by Indians in the same manner in which such jurisdiction may be exercised by Indian tribes in Indian country over which state jurisdiction has not been extended.
CaliforniaAll Indian Country within the state.
MinnesotaAll Indian country within the state, except the Red Lake Reservation.
NebraskaAll Indian country within the state.
OregonAll Indian country within the state, except the Warm Springs Reservation.
WisconsinAll Indian country within the state.

Source: 18 USC § 1162



Previous Page Back to Table of Contents Next Page