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What are Federal Offenses on an Indian Reservation?  

What Are Federal Offenses on an Indian Reservation?

Indian reservations are not generally subject to the laws of the federal US government. They operate using tribal law and have tribal law enforcement officials. Indian Country refers to all of the land in the US that has been specifically designated as part of an Indian reservation. There are a variety of complexities to the way that tribal governments and the federal government interact.

Different crimes fall under different jurisdictions depending upon the circumstances. For example, it makes a difference whether the crime involved an Indian or non-Indian individual, which state the offense occurred in, and how serious the offense was. Currently, three federal statutes have an effect on the criminal proceedings in Indian Country.

The first refers to any crimes that are committed by non-Indians toward Indian victims while in Indian Country. If a crime meets these circumstances, the situation falls under federal jurisdiction no matter how serious the offense was.

The second statute says that any crime of a certain nature committed in Indian Country is part of the federal jurisdiction if the offense is committed against or by a Native American. However, the crime must be robbery, burglary, arson, assault that causes serious harm, assault with a weapon, assault with the intent to kill, assault of someone under 16 years old, kidnapping, incest, maiming, manslaughter, or murder.

George FernandezGeorge Fernandez
14:16 30 Apr 24
Excellent 10 out of 10, Helped resolve my case. Jeremy explained everything and made everything easy to understand.
21:33 24 Apr 24
If you are looking for a lawyer that listens, is aggressive where needed, and holds his word above all else, Todd is the best pick. I had hired multiple attorneys prior to hiring the Spodek Group for a white collar case. The first thing that stood out to me was the cost, as anyone going through the process and dealing with the system, money was tight at that time - especially after hiring and firing multiple lawyers. The cost was not as high as others which was definitely a plus. Todd's intake process was also unlike other attorneys. He took the time to actually listen. He cared. He was trying to put himself in my shoes while I was explaining the situation to him and he really took the time to understand the whole situation. Other lawyers will give you 15 mins and send you a retainer agreement. Not Todd, I think he spent almost two hours with me as I was explaining everything.Not only was he great during the onboarding process, he was supportive and very informative through the entire plea process and eventually sentencing. After hiring him, I asked if I should hire a prison consultant, he told me to save my money as he would do everything they would. He was right and held up to his word. Later on I would hear from others that went with the prison consultants that they were a waste of money - I am glad I listened to Todd!When it came time for sentencing, two days prior to sentencing, the prosecutor tried increasing my proposed prison time by almost double - apparently a normal move. Todd and his team worked with me non-stop through the weekend prior to sentencing to ensure that I was not given additional prison time. Again, he took the time to listen and came up with a strategy to explain the case with great detail.Unfortunately, I did plead guilty as that was my best option. Todd and his whole team wrote up nearly 300 pages of a summary of what happened and why I should not be given prison time. If I breakdown the amount I spent with Todd versus the amount of work that I saw being done, I am shocked I was not charged four times as much. The other benefit was, a lot of criminal defense lawyers were just a single attorney with a paralegal or two. Todd had a team of people that I dealt with (5-7 people that I interacted with), but he was ALWAYS accessible. It would never take him more than an hour to reply unless he was in court.I was sentenced to prison and I was emotionally distraught. Todd and his team did whatever they could even after sentencing to make sure I was alright. He personally stayed in touch with my family to ensure I was doing alright and offered support to them. Most lawyers would consider the job complete at sentencing, not Todd.After prison, Todd still spent time with me to make sure I was on the right track and avoiding any potential risks in the future. He has also been giving advice on how to navigate probation etc and has not been looking at the clock for billing.Although I wish I had never been arrested in the first place, I am glad I had Todd and his team in my corner. Without them I likely would have had to spend a lot more time in prison than I did.Thank you, Todd, and the entire Spodek Law team, for helping turn what was a nightmare into a manageable situation!
Yelva Saint-PreuxYelva Saint-Preux
19:26 19 Apr 24
I am immensely grateful to the entire team at Spodek Law Group for their unwavering dedication and exceptional expertise throughout my case. From our initial consultation to the final resolution, their professionalism and tireless advocacy made all the difference. Their strategic approach and attention to detail instilled confidence in me every step of the way.Thanks to their hard work and commitment, we achieved a truly favorable outcome that exceeded my expectations. Not only did they navigate the complexities of my case with precision, but they also provided invaluable support and guidance during what was undoubtedly a challenging time. I cannot recommend Spodek Law Group highly enough, especially attorneys Todd Spodek and Claire Banks; they are beacons of excellence in the legal profession.YSP.
Katherine SunKatherine Sun
18:08 18 Apr 24
my lawyer is Alex Zhik. Efficient, patient and professional
Nun yaNun ya
17:48 18 Apr 24
Todd, Ralph and Alex are amazing. Helped my husband get from a double digit number with multiple charges to a single digit, by the time I blink he will be out. They very professional and help with all your needs. They dealt with my anxiety and worry very well and they understand that your family member needs to get home as soon as possible.
Keisha ParrisKeisha Parris
20:45 15 Mar 24
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko BeautyTaïko Beauty
16:26 15 Mar 24
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence.Thank you team!
K MarK Mar
01:37 25 Jan 24
I recently had Spodek Law Group represent me for a legal matter in NYC and I am thoroughly impressed with their services.Alex Zhik secured the best possible outcome for my case.It was a seamless journey from the initial consultation to the resolution of my legal matter. From the moment I spoke to Todd about my case, his enthusiasm to help was evident, setting a positive tone for the entire experience. The efficiency and professionalism displayed by the team is commendable.A particularly noteworthy aspect of their service is their user-friendly portal to upload your documents/evidence. This not only simplified the process, but showcases their commitment to streamline the client experience.Lastly, in an industry where legal fees can often be a concern, I found their pricing to be very reasonable, making needing legal assistance feel accessible and stress-free.I am grateful for their support and wouldn't hesitate to turn to them again in the future.

In keeping with this statute, any non-major crime that is committed by a Native American against another Native American while in Indian Country is in the jurisdiction of the tribal court. The tribe can choose their criminal justice proceedings accordingly. Any crimes by non-Indians against non-Indians in Indian Country may be prosecuted by the state government.

The last federal statute states that certain states are given jurisdiction over crimes in part or all of the state’s Indian Country. The states with jurisdiction over all Indian country include California, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Oregon has jurisdiction over all Indian Country except Warm Springs Reservation, while Minnesota has jurisdiction over everything except Red Lake Reservation.

Prosecutions Involving Federal and Tribal Funds

Some federal investigations may occur when there has been a theft of tribal funds. These may be investigated by the IRS, the Office of Indian Tribal Governments, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These agencies may also work in conjunction with each other.

Some of the most heavily prosecuted acts related to tribal funds are:

  • Stealing, embezzling, or misappropriating tribal funds
  • Embezzling from tribal businesses
  • Using a tribal credit card for personal gain
  • Misrepresenting the tribe’s federal status for tax purposes
  • Misrepresenting treaty laws to make improper tax exceptions
  • Filing false forms to claim non-resident alien status
  • Misusing casino comps without playing the games
  • Using improper tax shelters
  • Disguising corporate entities to evade unemployment taxes

Investigation Process

When an investigation involves federal or tribal funds, the first people often hear about it is through rumors. Tribal police and FBI officials may work together to try to interview witnesses. If the FBI determines that there is enough evidence to create a case, they will explain their investigation to a US Attorney’s Office prosecutor.

Once the case has a prosecutor, a grand jury will eventually be convened. They will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to bring charges. In an investigation like this, the following groups work together:

  • The US DOJ
  • The US Attorney’s Office
  • FBI agents and investigators
  • Tribal investigators
  • Tribal police officers

Tribal Embezzlement Penalties

If a person takes more than 100 dollars worth of property from a tribe, they will have committed a federal felony. The penalty for a conviction can include both fines and up to five years sentenced to federal prison. If the amount of property is less than 100 dollars, the crime is a misdemeanor that has a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

The embezzlement laws apply to both Indians and non-Indians.

The government must prove every element of the crime. They have to prove that the individual willingly embezzled the property and intended to deprive others of it.

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