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» Indian Law

Double Jeopardy Is Okay…If You Are a Native American

If you are Native American and commit a criminal offense on an Indian reservation, it can be a crime in both the Indian community and the federal system. As a result of the United States Supreme Court’s decisions on the matter, the Indian Civil Rights Act, and subsequent legislation, Indians can go to jail (technically, there are no prisons on Indian reservations) and federal prison for the same crime. They can also be fined twice for the same criminal act. The Supreme Court’s rationale is based on their interpretation of the source of Indian governments’ powers and how they interact with the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court was also understandably concerned that an Indian could quickly plead out in an Indian jurisdiction to avoid federal prosecution. This often leads … Read entire article »

Filed under: Indian Law, SCOTUS Cases

Tribal Probation

If you are serving a term of probation for a conviction in the Gila River Indian Community Court, you can spend the entire term of probation in jail if you violate a single condition of your probation. That means that if you’re doing a year of probation and fail to check in or get caught drinking, you could do a year of jail. No matter how long your term of probation is, you can get the same amount of jail. By stacking counts, the courts can put defendents on probation for years. That probably means years of jail sooner or later. When I first handled a Gila River Indian Community probation case, almost every defendant automatically got the max unless the prosecutor was willing to cut them … Read entire article »

Filed under: Indian Law

Tribal Courts

Practicing law in Indian Country is a unique experience. I once had a tribal judge deny a motion to suppress in a possession of marijuana case because she thought my client did in fact possess the marijuana. I also did a change of plea once where the judge asked my client if he wished to change his plea, and after my client said “yes,” the judge said “okay, done” and called the next case. Tribal criminal codes are equally interesting. Where I’ve practiced, murder, possession of marijuana, and running a pyramid scheme are all punishable by a maximum of one year in custody. However, one year is not necessarily the max in tribal jurisdictions, as judges can and do stack counts, and the federal government often steps … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants, Indian Law

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