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Tribal Law Enforcement

Tribal police powers

Authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all tribal members and the authority to arrest and detain non-Indians for delivery to state or federal authorities for prosecution. These tribal police powers are generally limited to tribal lands.

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).

Cross deputization agreements

Allow law enforcement personnel from state and tribal entities to cross jurisdictions in criminal cases. Cross deputization agreements have been used to enhance law enforcement capabilities in areas where state and tribal lands were contiguous and intermingled. Under some agreements, federal, state, county/local, and/or tribal law enforcement officers have the power to arrest Indian and non-Indian wrongdoers wherever the violation of law occurs.
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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.