Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

The Major Crimes Act requires federal jurisdiction for many offenses committed on tribal lands.
The Major Crimes Act requires federal jurisdiction for many offenses committed on tribal lands.
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May 31, 2017

U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Releases Annual Report

Over half of the cases handled by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota were comprised by violent offenses within the boundaries of the state’s reservations, according to KOTA News. Assaults comprised the largest percentage of crimes on tribal lands handled by the U.S. Attorney’s office at 37 percent, followed by drug charges at 18 percent. Of the total number of defendants charged on each reservation, 29 percent were from Pine Ridge, 28 percent were from Rosebud and 22 percent were from Cheyenne River.

Under the Major Crimes Act of 1885, many violent crimes (including most instances of assault) on tribal lands fall under federal jurisdiction. Jurisdiction of crimes committed on tribal lands also varies by whether or not the perpetrator and victim are Indian or non-Indian, as defined by federal law. More information on jurisdiction on tribal lands is available from the Tribal Court Clearinghouse, a project of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute.

Additionally, tribal courts have limited sentencing authority. Until recently, tribal courts could not impose more than 1 year of imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, or both per the Indian Civil Rights Act. However, under the Tribal Law and Order Act tribes can opt to be able to impose sentences up to three years and fines of $15,000. Several conditions must be met in order to impose the higher fees and imprisonment terms. More information on the Tribal Law and Order Act is available at the Justice Department’s website.

The U.S. Attorney also handles crimes outside of tribal jurisdictions. Drug charges off the reservation comprised 11 percent of the total cases handled by the U.S. Attorney. Immigration comprised 7 percent of cases filed, and white collar crime and official corruption each comprised 5 percent of total crimes not committed in Indian Country. The full contents of the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota’s 2016 Annual Report are available on the Justice Department’s website.

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