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Indian Country Criminal Jurisdiction - by Native.law

PL-280 And Other Jurisdictional Transfers

Warning: transfers of jurisdiction or unusual jurisdictional arrangements exist for many tribes. This is especially true in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Public Law 280 is a federal law which transfers criminal jurisdiction (except for wildlife offenses) to the state government. There are two types of PL-280 jurisdictional transfers; they are commonly referred to as "mandatory PL-280" and "optional PL-280".

Mandatory PL-280 refers to the jurisdictions listed at 18 USC 1162(a). The mandatory PL-280 jurisdictions are: Alaska, California, Minnesota (except Red Lake reservation), Nebraska, Oregon (except Warm Springs reservation), and Wisconsin. In mandatory PL-280 Indian country, the state has been given jurisdiction to prosecute most misdemeanors and felonies, the tribes also have misdemeanor jurisdiction, but the federal government does not have jurisdiction to prosecute most Indian country crimes. 

Between 1953 and 1968, a number of other states acquired criminal jurisdiction over certain tribes; this is commonly called "optional PL-280" jurisdiction. In optional PL-280 areas of Indian country, the state has jurisdiction over whatever types of offenses that it has accepted under state law, the tribes have misdemeanor jurisdiction, and the federal government has it's normal jurisdiction to prosecute Indian country crimes.

Because both forms of PL-280 put law enforcement responsibility on the states, but did not provide funding for such services, in many places PL-280 did not work very well. Many states have now "retroceded" jurisdiction back to the federal government. If there has been full retrocession of jurisdiction, then PL-280 no longer applies to that particular tribe.  Upon tribal government request, the US can also assume concurrent federal jurisdiction on mandatory PL-280 reservations.  In addition to PL-280, there are other statutes which affect Indian country jurisdiction in particular states (for example, Kansas (18 USC 3243), New York (25 USC 232)) or for particular tribes (for example, Mashantucket Pequot (25 USC 1755)). Another statute, 18 USC 1166(d), allows for transfer of jurisdiction over gambling offenses to the state under certain circumstances. In addition, tribes now have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian domestic violence suspects, 25 USC 1304. Because of PL-280, special jurisdictional statutes, and retrocessions, it is often necessary to review the jurisdictional status of each tribe individually.

Jurisdiction Chart

CLICK HERE for more information about PL-280 AND OTHER JURISDICTIONAL TRANSFERS from the US Department of Justice Criminal Resource Manual