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Who Has Jurisdiction Over Crimes Committed on Tribal Land in Arizona?

Jurisdiction is the power law enforcement has over a specific district or area. So, what happens if a crime is committed on tribal land by a non-tribal citizen, and who has jurisdiction over these areas in Arizona? Keep reading to find out.

A Brief Overview of Tribal Law and Jurisdiction

The most important thing to remember about Native American tribes is that they are considered separate nations within the United States. Tribes can participate in trade commerce and share natural resources with the U.S. government, but ultimately, they are independent nations according to the Constitution.

These independent governing rights are a part of a greater concept called sovereignty. Native American and Alaskan Native tribes have sovereignty which allows them to establish their own government, establish membership rights, draft legislation, and maintain their own law enforcement.

While tribes have the right of sovereignty, they do not always have jurisdiction over nonmembers and non-Natives. In many cases, tribal governments cannot exercise civil or criminal jurisdiction outside of the tribe, and they may still fall under some state rules.

The relationship between state and federal legislators and tribal governments is extremely complex and steeped in decades of bloody history and struggle. These laws are not to be taken lightly, and it is important to respect tribal peoples and their sovereign right to govern their land.

It is equally important to know what can happen if you commit a crime on native land.

Arizona Law Regarding Tribal Jurisdiction

To understand the limits of state police and tribal law enforcement, it’s crucial to understand what constitutes tribal land. Native land is within the current and historical boundaries of established reservations and related allotments.

There are 22 recognized Native tribes in Arizona, spread out throughout the state. Crossing the boundaries between state and tribal land is easy, and it may complicate the legality of a crime.

Native Jurisdiction vs. Federal/State Jurisdiction Basics

Below is a breakdown of situations where tribal governments may or may not interfere in a criminal case:

  • If the perpetrator and victim are Native Americans, the crime falls under tribal jurisdiction
  • If the perpetrator is a Native American, but the victim is non-Indian, the crime falls under federal and tribal jurisdiction
  • If the perpetrator is a non-native, but the victim is Native American, the crime falls under both federal and tribal jurisdiction
  • If both the perpetrator and victim are non-Indian, the crime falls under state jurisdiction

So, unless you harm or are harmed by a Native American during a crime, it may not fall under tribal jurisdiction, and you could face the state or federal legal process.

Legal Guidance

Territorial Law, LLC does not handle tribal law cases, but we do offer legal services for a variety of legal matters, including:

  • DUI and DWI
  • Wiretapping
  • Drug Crimes
  • Sex Crimes
  • Domestic Violence
  • And more

Our defense attorneys are experienced and well-versed in state and federal laws that apply to your case. We fight for our clients and offer support and guidance throughout every part of the legal process.

Contact Territorial Law, LLC today to learn more.