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
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 have primarily 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 primarily 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 (which requires state consent), then PL-280 no longer applies to that particular tribe. Upon
tribal government request (state consent not required), 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. Because of PL-280, special jurisdictional statutes, and retrocessions, it is necessary
to review the jurisdictional status of each tribe individually.
Criminal Jurisdiction Chart