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An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Tribal justice

National Survey of Tribal Court Systems (NSTCS)

​​​​​​The legal institutions in Indian country revolve around four main entities: indigenous or traditional courts, general jurisdiction courts, appellate courts, and the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Code of Federal Regulation courts. The National Survey of Tribal Court Systems (NSTCS) is the first complete enumeration of tribal court systems operating in the United States and gathers administrative and operational information from tribal court systems, prosecutors’ offices, and indigent defense providers operating in the United States.

Tribal Crime

To improve the availability of data on crime in Indian country, BJS creates data tables containing information reported by tribal law enforcement agencies to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program and published in the annual Crime in United States (CIUS) publication.

Public Law 83-280 (commonly referred to as Public Law 280 or P.L. 280)

Establishes criminal justice responsibilities among American Indian tribes with tribal land, the states in which tribes are located, and the federal government. Public Law 280 is mandatory or optional for 204 tribes, about two-thirds of the total in the lower 48 states. In states where P.L. 280 does not apply, the federal government retains criminal jurisdiction for major crimes committed under the Indian Country Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 1152), the Indian Country Major Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 1153), and the Assimilative Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 13).

Criminal jurisdiction in tribal areas

Jurisdiction over offenses in Indian country may lie with federal, state, or tribal agencies, depending on the particular offense, offender, victim, and offense location. For more information on tribal jurisdiction, see State Prosecutors' Offices with Jurisdiction in Indian Country, 2007, Tribal Law Enforcement, 2008, Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in Indian Country, 2002, and Jails in Indian Country, 2017-2018.