On March 10, as a part of the FY22 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA is the important and historic act that restored tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians for certain crimes including child violence, sexual violence, sex trafficking, stalking, crimes against tribal law enforcement and correctional officers, and obstruction of justice. The reauthorization of VAWA provides $6 million per year over 2023-2027 to support implementation by tribes.
Tribal provisions in the reauthorization of VAWA include:
- increased funding to support the implementation of VAWA’s tribal criminal jurisdiction provisions,
- requiring that non-Indian defendants exhaust all tribal court remedies,
- funding for Indian tribes to access national crime information systems
- clarifying that VAWA’s tribal jurisdiction provisions apply to all Indian tribes,
- establishing an Alaska pilot project to allow some Alaska Native Villages to exercise VAWA’s tribal criminal jurisdiction provisions and civil
- jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators for the first time since the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie.
One of the substantial improvements for tribes and tribal law enforcement included in the reauthorization of VAWA is the expansion of covered crimes. This will eliminate the need for dual prosecutions in tribal and non-tribal courts in many VAWA cases.
Under the prior law, domestic violence charges could be brought in tribal court, but often related and easier to prove charges could not. Being able to bring all of these changes in a single court case will improve the ability of tribal prosecutors to reach plea agreements and increase conviction rates. With these improvements, tribes who are exercising jurisdiction under VAWA may need to make small amendments to their related criminal laws.
Originally enacted in 1994, VAWA is intended to protect domestic and sexual violence victims and improve response through various programs. This is the fourth time VAWA has been reauthorized.
Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP is ready to assist tribes and tribal businesses. To learn more about this issue and how we can assist, contact attorney Alvina Earnhart in our Colorado office at (303) 926-5292.