Tribal Law and Order Act at a glance

By the Associate Press

The Tribal Law and Order Act, signed by President Barack Obama last summer, seeks to give tribes greater authority and additional resources to combat reservation crime. Key provisions:

– U.S. attorneys who decline to prosecute Indian Country cases must notify tribal justice officials, coordinate with them on the investigation’s status and share evidence so the case can be pursued in tribal court. Federal prosecutors must maintain records of declined cases.

– Sentencing authority in tribal courts is increased from up to one year for each offense to up to three years; clarifies that tribal courts can subject offenders to multiple charges, with a nine-year maximum; and creates a pilot program that allows the Bureau of Prisons to accept offenders convicted in tribal courts.

– Calls on each U.S. attorney’s office with Indian Country jurisdiction to appoint at least one assistant U.S. attorney to serve as a tribal liaison. The liaisons’ duties will include addressing any backlog in the prosecution of major crimes, and providing tribal law enforcement with technical assistance and training on evidence-gathering and interviewing techniques.

– Provides tribal law enforcement officials access to and training on the National Criminal Information Center database.

– Establishes a nine-member Indian Law and Order Commission to conduct a comprehensive study of law enforcement and criminal justice in tribal communities, including jurisdiction issues and jail systems. The commission must report to Congress and the president in 2012.

Several provisions of the law are aimed at combatting sexual violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. They include:

– Requiring the Bureau of Prisons to notify tribal authorities when releasing sex offenders who will work or live in Indian Country.

– Creating standardized protocols on the handling of all aspects of sex assault cases by the Indian Health Service, the Justice Department, tribes and organizations.

– Expanding tribal law enforcement officers’ training on interviewing domestic and sexual violence victims, and on collecting and preserving evidence.

– Directing the U.S. Comptroller General to do a study on the abilities of IHS facilities to collect, maintain and secure evidence of sex assaults and domestic violence. Findings and recommendations must be reported to Congress.