VAWA 2013 and the DOJ’s Tribal Pilot Project

On March 7, 2013, the President signed into law the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013).  One key provision addresses violence against women on tribal lands.  The intimate partner violence rate in Indian Country is higher than the national average, yet tribes cannot prosecute all criminal offenders.  Instead, they must rely on the federal government, or in some areas, local state officials, to prosecute non-Indian offenders.  VAWA 2013 aims to restore tribal criminal jurisdiction over domestic violence offenses committed by non-Indian perpetrators against Indian victims.  (“Indian” is the term used in legislation for “Native American.”)  Tribes will continue to lack jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes committed by non-Indian offenders against non-Indian victims.  Effective March 7, 2015, VAWA 2013 will allow tribes to assert criminal jurisdiction in domestic violence cases over certain non-Indian defendants.  Read the text of the law at FDsys or THOMAS.

Tribal Jurisdiction over Crimes of Domestic Violence

Victim

Perpetrator

Location of crime

Tribal Jurisdiction Now?

Tribal Jurisdiction 2015?

Indian

Indian

Reservation

Yes

Yes

Indian

Indian

Off-Reservation

No

No

Indian

Non-Indian

Reservation

No

Yes*

Indian

Non-Indian

Off-Reservation

No

No

Non-Indian

Indian

Reservation

Yes

Yes

Non-Indian

Indian

Off-Reservation

No

No

Non-Indian

Non-Indian

Reservation

No

No

Non-Indian

Non-Indian

Off-Reservation

No

No

*Non-Indian perpetrators must have sufficient ties to the tribe, such as living or working on the reservation.  This chart is a simplification of a very complex jurisdictional regime.

Before the Act takes effect, the DOJ is authorized to run a pilot project to accelerate the start date for tribes that demonstrate the ability to protect defendants’ rights under the Indian Civil Rights Act and the Tribal Law and Order Act.  View the proposal in the Federal Register.  An overview and FAQ about the Tribal Pilot Project is available through the DOJ’s VAWA 2013 webpage.  The public may submit comments on the DOJ’s proposal until September 12, 2013 at regulations.gov.

For more information on Federal Indian Law in general, see our research guide

Select print resources in our catalog on VAWA (not 2013):

Select print resources on tribal jurisdiction:

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