Tribal Law and Order Act Reauthorization

The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 is a law signed by President Barack Obama that expands the criminal capabilities of tribal courts across the country. The law allows tribal courts operating in Indian countries to increase prison sentences in criminal cases against Indian offenders. It was an important step towards improving law enforcement and justice in India – and a precursor to VAWA 2013. An expert panel focused on justice systems reiterated to the Law Enforcement Committee the success of the U.S. Assistant Special Prosecutors program and the need to find alternatives to incarceration. The panel also highlighted the success of the Bureau of Prisons` pilot program for tribal prisoners and the training of 600 tribal court staff. They also stressed the need (2) to serve another alternative form of sentence determined by the tribal judge in accordance with tribal law. The TLOA aimed to increase federal accountability, improve tribal authority, approve additional (unearmarked) funds, and establish the Law and Order Commission of India (ILOC). The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a “roundtable” in mid-February to mark the fifth anniversary of the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA).

This event was moderated by Judge William A. Thorne, who has served as a tribal judge in nine western states and a state judge in Utah. Tribes are able to exercise their sovereign power to investigate, prosecute, convict and condemn Indians and non-Indians who commit secret crimes against Indian victims on Indian lands. In cases of obstruction of justice and attack on tribal justice personnel, the victim does not need to be Indian. Tribes may exercise this jurisdiction whether or not the non-Indian defendant has ties to the participating tribe. VAWA 2022 also includes provisions recognizing and affirming the inherent authority of Alaskan tribes to exercise criminal and civil jurisdiction over all Indians present in their villages, and the full civil jurisdiction of their courts to issue and enforce protection orders in matters arising out of or within their jurisdiction. For more information on the VAWA 2022 Alaska pilot program for Alaskan tribes looking to practice STCJ, please see below. Section 212, codified in 25 U.S.C.

§2809, prescribes a series of annual reports and sharing of evidence between federal and tribal justice officials and law enforcement agencies when a case is dismissed. As part of its reporting obligations, the FBI must include in the declination reports: the types of alleged crimes, the status of the parties as Indians or non-Indians, and the reasons for refusing or terminating prosecutions. VAWA 2013 also established a pilot project that allowed strains to practice CRVDS prior to March 7, 2015, when the provisions of the VAWA SDCVJ came into force. The Department of Justice`s Alaska pilot framework document called on tribal leaders to evaluate lessons learned from the 2013 pilot. Information on the strains that participated in this pilot project is available at In order for a tribal criminal court to exercise the ESA, tribes must meet minimum due process requirements. These criteria are distinct and complement the requirements already included in CIFAR. Section 234 of the TLOA is codified in Articles 1302(b)-(c) of CIFAR. From For questions about the Coordinated Tribal Solicitation of Assistance Solicitation, please contact the Department of Justice (OTJ) Tribal Justice Office at 202-514-8812 or the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) at 202-307-6026 or or visit

TLOA Section 233, codified at 28 U.S.C. §534, gives tribal law enforcement officers access and authority to national crime databases. Although this section of TLOA is small, it is very important on the ground because it ensures that tribal, federal, and state agencies are aware of the same information to prevent crime. VAWA 2022 requires the Attorney General, in consultation with the Minister of Interior and relevant tribes, to establish a process to appoint up to five tribes per calendar year to exercise the JTS on all persons present in the tribal village. The Ministry is currently seeking tribal input to develop the process by which tribes can apply for designation. VAWA 2022 limits the number of participating tribes to 30, without notice to Congress and the public, and allows two or more tribes to participate together and be considered as a single participating tribe for the purposes of the cap. For more information on the pilot, including guidance and a framework document, see Bureau of Prisons Pilot Project to Housing Tribal Offenders Convicted by Tribal Courts In November 2010, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) launched a four-year pilot program to admit certain tribal offenders convicted by tribal courts for placement in BOP facilities. The pilot program allows any federally recognized tribe to apply to the BOP to detain a person convicted of a violent crime under the TLOA, and allows BOP to house up to 100 tribal offenders at a time nationwide.

On November 20, 2012, a referral was sent by the Confederated tribes of the Umatilla reservation to place a member of the registered tribe in the custody of the Office. The accused, who was convicted of assault by the Umatilla Tribal Court, was accepted by the BOP and transferred to FCI Herlong in January 2013. The defendant is the first TLOA pilot participant at the office. Two other inmates have since been admitted to the program. As the re-approval of TLOA progresses, we can expect more discussion on due process issues and increasing public defense in the Indian country, as well as other necessary supports to the tribal justice system. The pilot program allowed the BOP to house a limited number of offenders convicted by tribal courts for a period of four years. The pilot program was scheduled to run from November 2010 to November 2014. TLOA is certainly described as “complex”.

It created significant new powers for the police and tribal courts and imposed closer ties between the federal Department of Justice and tribal law enforcement agencies. Parts of the law have expired and need to be renewed; The entire law will soon have to be reapproved. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act 2013 (VAWA 2013) contained a landmark provision recognizing the inherent authority of “participating tribes” to exercise “Special Criminal Jurisdiction for Domestic Violence” (SDVCJ) over certain defendants, regardless of their Indian or non-Indian status, who commit domestic or dating violence or violate certain protection orders in Indian countries. This provision allowed tribes to exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Native American offenders for the first time since the Supreme Court`s 1978 decision in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, which found that tribes do not have jurisdiction over all crimes committed by non-Indians without the express approval of Congress. The law also defines the rights that a participating tribe must grant to defendants in SDVCJ cases. Congress passed the TLOA in 2010 and it became law on July 29, 2010. Reports such as Amnesty International`s Maze of Injustice: the Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the US have sparked public interest in India`s high rates of violence and motivated systemic change. In addition, the 2009 TLOA Senate report pointed out that there was a lack of police presence in the Indian country and that the limited sentencing power of the tribal court had greatly contributed to the spread of crime in Indian countries.

Prior to the passage of the TLOA, the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) limited the power of tribes to impose prison sentences of more than one year or a fine of more than $5,000. TLOA provides that if a tribe meets the requirements set out in the law, the tribe`s criminal court will be able to exercise expanded criminal power and sentence an accused to three years and a $15,000 fine for a single offense. In addition, a tribal court can accumulate sentences of up to a cumulative total of nine years for multiple offenses.