Federal Criminal Law To Become Applicable Again At Hoopa Valley
The U.S. Department of Justice announced this week that the federal government will extend federal criminal jurisdiction to the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in late 2017. The statement by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates approved a 2011 request of the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council that the United States apply federal authority over crimes to supplement existing laws. Federal criminal laws will add to tribal and state criminal laws now in force and will not replace any existing law enforcement authority.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe requested that federal criminal laws apply in order to increase law enforcement resources, address voids in jurisdiction, and improve coordination with federal and state law enforcement agencies. At present, the federal General Crimes Act and the Major Crimes Act do not apply to Hoopa (although many other federal criminal laws do apply). An example of a law of these Acts not currently applied is: felons in possession of firearms, trespass, and theft of tribal property. The Justice Department’s decision reverses a portion of Public Law 280, an infamous 1953 law that required California to take over criminal jurisdiction throughout Indian lands in the State and also prohibited application of some federal criminal laws. Tribal members have complained for decades that law enforcement protections have been absent from over 90% of the Reservation lands under Public Law 280. In 2010, Congress authorized the federal government to concurrently exercise criminal jurisdiction in Pub. L. 280 states, but thus far the federal government has approved only three Tribes’ requests, including Hoopa.
“This is a major advance for tribal self-governance and reverses a 63-year long conflicted law that has plagued our Reservation for too long,” said Ryan Jackson, Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman. “While under the outdated and poorly thought out Pubic Law 280 policies, the Federal Government abandoned the Reservation decades ago and left our community and people powerless to fix the problems,” Jackson said. “We have just helped to reestablish a jurisdictional foundation for the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation that has not been available since 1953,” said Daniel Jordan, Tribal Self-Governance Coordinator.
Chairman Jackson explained that the 12 months before federal criminal jurisdiction becomes fully applicable will be consumed in making arrangements for increased use of federal investigators, expanding resources in the Office of the United States Attorney, developing an agreement with Humboldt County’s District Attorney and Sheriff, selecting multi-disciplinary teams and working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services and the federal courts. The Tribal Council is considering amendments to the Tribal Code to implement the new authority as well. A part of the Tribe’s comprehensive law enforcement services plan is to construct a jail/holding cell facility in Hoopa that will comply with modern-day detention facility requirements. This holding cell facility will also take workload pressure off of our tribal law enforcement officers by giving them additional local support while they are carrying out their ongoing service to our community.
“Our tribal members and residents of the Hoopa community have set addressing the law enforcement situation as one of our highest priorities. Getting this accomplished is a major step forward for our people. We look forward to taking the next step to develop a joint tribal/federal/state agreement that describes our mutual roles under this process,” Jackson added.