Attorney: Tribal sovereignty strengthened by Violence Against Women Act

BY CASEY ROSS-PETHERICK Published: March 27, 2013
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With the signing of VAWA, tribes will be allowed to elect to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians for crimes committed inside of the tribe's territorial boundaries. The special criminal jurisdiction allows tribes to prosecute domestic violence and dating violence, as well as violations of protective orders when the defendant resides or works in tribes' territory, or if the defendant is a spouse, intimate partner or dating partner of a member of the tribe or any Indian who lives within the tribe's territory.

Tribes that elect to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians under VAWA must afford defendants subjected to any term of imprisonment the protections included under the Tribal Law and Order Act's enhanced sentencing provisions. Tribes must also publish their criminal codes, regulations and interpretive documents, and must maintain a record of the criminal proceedings.

This legislation takes an important step toward strengthening tribal governments' authority to protect their citizens.

Ross-Petherick is an attorney with Hall Estill who specializes in tribal law.

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